ISBN – 978-1-4169-6060-7
Publisher – Simon Pulse
First Published – 2008
Pages – 170
“The thing is, you can get used to anything. You think you can’t, you want to die, but you don’t. You won’t. You just are.
This is Alice.
She was taken by Ray five years ago.
She thought she knew how her story would end.
She was wrong.“
I have never read any Elizabeth Scott books before, so this was my ticket to Elizabeth love. Of course, when I say love, it isn’t in the traditional sense. ‘Living Dead Girl’ doesn’t feature any swoon-worthy romances, no kick ass heroines or dashing heroes. But rather, as the ominous title and eerie cover suggest, Living Dead Girl is a story of bitter survival and the heart breaking that sometimes life isn’t wonderful, its harsh and cruel and wrong.
The book follows ‘Alice’ (although her real name is Kyla), a girl who was kidnapped when she was ten years old. She has been captive to Ray who abuses her and over the past five years has broken her will. The plot is fairly straightforward, so there isn’t a lot else to explain. Rather than action, Scott focuses on taking us into Alice’s world and examining how she has survived the past five years.
For me, Living Dead Girl was an incredibly difficult book to read. I kept wanting to put the book away out of horror for what was transpiring, but at the same time my eyes were glued to the page. The reality of Alice’s life is a shocking one; one where every day she is subject to Ray’s will, his psychotic fantasies. It is really a terrifying fact, and what’s worse is that this isn’t a fantasy novel. This isn’t just a story; it’s real. Children like Alice (or Kyla) are kidnapped all the time and put through horrible situations just like those portrayed in Living Dead Girl.
But perhaps what struck home for me were not the things that were written in the book, but what was written between the lines; the things that went unsaid. The days and weeks are years of Alice’s life that were not written were just as powerful as those that were. Such was Scott’s writing style that despite the book being so thin, the story was created through images and feelings just as much as it was through words.
If you know me well, you know I’m usually firmly rooted in Team Villain. There are some occasions, though, when I just can’t bring myself to love, or even like a book’s antagonist – this was one of those times. Ray was vile and disgusting and just plain awful, but no matter how many adjectives I use to express my disgust for him, it doesn’t remove the fact that people like Ray are real. I liked that we were given some background to why Ray acted the way he did, which was something that I didn’t expect. Too often do I find myself feeling dissatisfied with a villain because they are just spelt out as ‘bad’ with no clear explanation as to how they got that way. Although, I’m still not sure I feel comfortable calling Ray a ‘villain’, despite my absolute disgust with everything that was him. Ray was twisted and messed up inside and although I couldn’t bring myself to have any sort of sympathy for him, I want to give Elizabeth Scott a firm nod for making him a person rather than just a cardboard cutout labeled ‘bad’.
And Alice, Alice, Alice. I wanted to cry, I wanted to hug her and just like Alice said I would (well not me specifically, but she speaks about how people expect this sort of strength from victims), I wanted her to rise up and defy Ray. But she couldn’t and her distress was portrayed so well through her subsequent actions and her self-loathing. Even her relationship with Jake was gut wrenching.
And the ending, oh goodness. It was so awful and beautiful at the same time. Scott’s writing is delightful in a gritty sort of way. She gets you right into the world of her characters so that soon enough you feel like watching them through a glass window; you can see them and hear them and almost feel them as if they were real, but you can’t help them no matter how much you want to.
This review is getting on the long side, so I’m going to start wrapping it up here. But oh my goodness, I could talk about this book forever. Living Dead Girl was beautiful, shocking, horrifying, distressing, disgusting, hopeful and most of all it was a touch of reality that I hope I never experience myself.
If you are on the hunt for something dark, contemporary and entirely unforgettable then Living Dead Girl is where your search should stop. Just don’t read it on the train, you might just find yourself bawling.
I’d also like to mention that Living Dead Girl presents some very mature themes, so if you aren’t prepared for those then I suggest you give it a miss for now.
Rating (out of 5):
“Grace is my favourite church word. A state of being. Something you can pray for. Something God can grant. Something you can obtain. Perfection is out of reach. But grace — grace you can reach for.“