Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Recommendation: Living Dead Girl

I've been meaning to post book reviews on here; however, most of what I've read lately has been for work. And I can't talk about those projects here. I can, however, talk about already published books! I succumbed to the e-reader fad and bought a nook this week, and naturally I couldn't leave it empty for more than an hour. I'd been meaning to pick up this book for ages, and I can happily say it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

LIVING DEAD GIRL, by Elizabeth Scott
Published September 2nd, 2008 by Simon Pulse
170 Pages

Fans of Scott's YA romances PERFECT YOU or BLOOM may be unprepared for the unrelieved terror within this chilling novel, about a 15-year-old girl who as spent the last five years being abused by a kidnapper named Ray and is kept powerless by Ray's promise to harm her family if she makes one false move. The Narrator knows she is the second of the girls Ray has abducted and renamed Alice; Ray killed the first when she outgrew her childlike body at 15, and now Alice half-hopes her own demise is approaching ('I think of the knife in the kitchen, or the bridges I've seen from the bus... but the thing about hearts is that they always keep beating'). Ray, however, has an even more sinister plan: he orders Alice to find a new girl, then train her to Ray's tastes.
Scott's prose is spare and damning, relying on suggestive details and their impact on Alice to convey the unimaginable violence she repeatedly experiences. Disturbing but fascinating, the book exerts an inescapable grip on readers - like Alice, they have virtually no choice but to continue until the conclusion sets them free. 

There's something intrinsically haunting and beautiful about this book. Alice's voice is bitter, broken, devastating, and cuts through you as you read. You can feel her pain. Her fear is palpable. She's someone you want to save, right from the very beginning. Every time Ray laid a hand on her, I cringed. My skin crawled. I think I might have gasped on the subway, prompting odd looks from people. It's a book you find yourself sinking into, deeper and deeper until you're lost within it. You're lost within Alice's mind, and by the time you finish the book, all you can do is sit for a few moments and just be.

Be thankful you are free.

As Amazon's summary says, the prose is sparse, which leaves the reader to imagine a lot of things. Sometimes, what you don't see is worse than what you do. A line as simple as "he touched me" had me envisioning all sorts of horrific things, and made me even angrier with Ray. Which I didn't think was possible. But my hate for him grew as the story went on, until by the end, I wished I could get rid of him myself. I felt as though he was a real person. And in a way, he is. There are Rays all over the world, living their sordid lives undetected. And the thought of that makes me sick, and makes me hate this Ray even more. I think it's a sign of superb writing when you can make a reader feel that strongly about a character you only see for the length of one book. Even after I finished, I couldn't get him out of my head.

The same goes for Alice. I can't stop thinking about her. This book isn't just a story, it's someone's story. It's not just Alice's. Somewhere out there, there's a girl just like her, and what happened in the story is happening to her. The way Elizabeth Scott wrote the book really makes you think. And you realize that while this piece is fiction, for some little kid out there, it isn't. And that added knowledge that sits in the back of your mind, festering while you read, gives the story an added weight you don't find in other novels.

Besides the story itself, the writing is incredible. The tiny details Alice notices stick with you. The way things are described are not your standard combination of adjectives, but the phrases are so beautiful and evocative that you know exactly what the words mean. A flower isn’t just a flower. Silence isn’t just silence. There’s always something more behind it. Alice’s thoughts flow from one to the next with ease, and you really get the sense that this damaged, vulnerable, ruined girl is talking to you. I cried while reading it because I felt so connected to what was going on within the story. And though I won't give away the ending, I can't decide whether my tears at the end were happy or sad. Maybe a mixture of both.

There really are no limits to what can be written about, but I especially applaud people like Elizabeth Scott, who tackle subjects like this one. Lucy Christopher did it, too, with her book, STOLEN. People always ask things like, "Why didn't they try to escape?" "Why didn't they fight back?" But how could you possibly understand if you haven't been in the situation? I feel as though this particular piece really answers that question. Or at least offers one possibility.

If I had to rate the book, I’d give it a 10 out of 10. Without blinking an eye. I said at the beginning that the story is haunting, and it will stay with you, even after you’re done. My only regret is that I didn’t buy it in paperback. I’ll have to do that, because this is one book I want to proudly display on my shelf.

For those of you who are into the gritty, realistic side of YA, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy. And even if you aren’t, you probably should. You won’t regret it.

Also, for anyone who's read the book, I want to hear your take on the ending!


  1. I've obviously got to read this book... I love gritty YA, and this sounds really psychologically explorative, with lean but beautiful prose--both things I search for in a book.

    Arrrg. But I'm leaving for Nashville, and there are no good libraries where I'll be staying...

  2. This is why you should get a nook ;-)

    But definitely get a copy of this when you can.