Book Review: Living Dead Girl
ashley | I thought I knew disturbing. I’ve read my share of disturbing tales and like to think it takes a lot to shake me. But Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott did just that. It shook me to my core.
The first striking detail is how things are written. In the beginning, YOU is your main character here, thrusting the reader right into the story in an intimate and uncomfortable position. The first chapter tells you How Things Look, describing the scene to YOU, describing the surroundings and the neighbours in the small community. Next, How Things Are describes to YOU, well, how things are. The situation, YOUR situation.
I’ve seen this second person structure in books before and sometimes it works, sometimes it makes things a bit more complicated than necessary, but this time I don’t think anything else would have made the same impact. Scott thrusts you right into the reality of things from the very start, so when the tone shifts to first person, your mind is already submerged into that of the main character and you’re already spiralling down the twisted and frightening road. That’s the kind of thing you don’t come out of without a few internal scars.
I knew little of this book going in other than it was a short read. But you are pulled so deep and quickly into it that I’m not sure I would have made it through if it were any longer. I finished this in almost one sitting and I tell you, that was enough.
It wasn’t the torturous details; while it’s descriptive and utterly disturbing, I didn’t find this as graphic as some people have said it was. No, it was Alice’s determination and desperation that got to me. How so completely hopeless and helpless she was to escape that she craved, dreamed of and wanted nothing more than death. She was even willing to sacrifice another little girl, trade places, to ensure her own freedom. That’s definitely a horrible thought but you can hardly fault her. Somehow in all her desperation such an atrocious act seems justified.
I also admired that determination a bit. A lot of the acts Alice was forced into doing made her entirely numb; she would succumb to her captor, fear drove her to do anything he told her without question, she never called out to anyone, never really tried to escape. A lot of people might see this as weak, but there was such a strength to her compliance, Alice never lost sight of escaping, even if she knew her only escape was death. Among every other beat down she took, she never lost the drive to escape. In some messed up way, that is admirable.
While Ray can never be redeemed, he is a monster no doubt about that, a focus on his past did shine a light on how growing up with abuse often spawns abuse, an insight into the motivation and dark thought process of Alice’s captor.
This wasn’t flawless; sometimes things seemed a bit repetitive, though in doing that, you really got a strong feeling for how monotonous Alice’s captive life must have been like. But this was one of the stronger narratives on kidnapping and being held captive that I have read. Something that made me shiver down to the bone. That is how deep this book cuts.
september 7, 2008