Living Dead Girl (by Elizabeth Scott)

7 12 2011

When Alice is 10 years old she’s abducted by pedophile Ray while she is on a field trip to the local Aquarium. Leaving aside that this fact alone is enough to never *ever* let your kid go on a school trip (paranoia!) if you come to think of it, readers who expect a tear jerker with a happy ending where the abused overcomes his/her  trauma and comes out on top in true Natascha Kampusch-style, or Scott fans who expect something nice and fluffy like some of her other work, will sorely be disappointed, grossed out, horrified or worse, after reading this cautionary and desperate tale about abuse.

Living Dead Girl is told from Alice’s perspective. That other Alice book is of course one of the first literary references a reader will think of. With the very similar looking diary-style language, it is a way to bring the story of the serially abused Alice a little too close for comfort. This is partly due to the incredibly real details depicted and by the language Alice uses. Considering the fact that Alice was kidnapped when she was only 10 and hasn’t had any contact with peers or teachers, or what have you, she talks and writes in the way you would expect of an uneducated girl of about 10. This realistic yet slightly stinted language use, as well as the similar topic, made the cat think of Emma Donoghue’s Room more than just a few times too. And I guess the same criticism applies here. There is the obvious impact that Alice’s story has on your sense of compassion with the girl and her Big Dilemma. But there’s that pesky little question whether there is anything more to it that just the pure shock value?

The problem with Living Dead Girl actually isn’t really the literary quality of the book. The cat is sure that this wasn’t Scott’s intent in the first place anyway, a tale that needs to be told and all that…. In the span of the 5 years that Alice is with Ray she is forced to do and endure the most horrible of things, all of which a more or less experienced reader can infer (and vividly so!) from the hints (often not so subtle) scattered throughout. A few examples: Alice is starved almost to the point of death because she has to look thin and like a little girl, rather than the teenager and consequent woman she is bound to become (the waxing scene, btw, is just gross). She is terrorized into thinking Ray will kill her real parents if she attempts to escape. Rape, forced fellatio etc. there is nothing that is not dehumanizing in this book, nothing that Alice doesn’t have to do, including looking for her own replacement now that she’s grown too old for Ray’s liking.

Living Dead Girl is a disturbing book… The cat is sure that it’s a story that needs to be told, but at the same time it’s a book you don’t really want to end up in unsuspecting hands. Can teens read this book? Are they cognitively and emotionally able to deal with the situations described in this book? Well, some might, of course. However, ‘Proceed With Caution’ is definitely appropriate here.

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