17 September 2010

Book Review: Living Dead Girl

Title: Living Dead Girl
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: 8 September 2009
Date Finished: 10 September 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions,Hogwarts Reading Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
Alice was kidnapped when she was ten years old. For the past five years, she has been living in hell, sexually abused by her kidnapper, unable to escape, and waiting for death.

A Bit of a Ramble
A first-person account of a young girl being sexually abused, Living Dead Girl is a difficult read to say the least.

The writing is fantastic. This isn't your typical pathos-driven abuse story. The pain and terror and hopelessness aren't bursting off the pages in effusive language; instead it is the very absence of emotion that is so evocative. The sentences, the emotion in the structure is flat, revealing a psyche tortured to the point of apathy. Alice's voice lacks the typical qualities of teenage girls, lacks rhythm and metaphor and instead is simplistic, practical, and without beauty. She is numb.

The very structure of the novel adds to this with short, to-the-point chapters that range from one sentence to a few pages in length. For example, this is the entirety of chapter 27:

  1. No one will see you.
  2. No one will say anything.
  3. No one will save you.

I know what the once upon a time stories say, but they lie.
That's what stories are you know. Lies.
Look at that, for life lessons. Now you owe me.
The language is so brutal, simultaneously painful to read and wonderfully authentic.  The lack of a multi-layered plot, the simplicity of the language, kept this a bare-bones, full-frontal assault. It also made it a quite fast read, about an hour and a half.

I would like to say that Elizabeth Scott has balls. Big ones. Not only did she write about such a controversial topic from a first-person point of view, but she also dared to categorize it as Young Adult Literature. I am a rather liberal person, believing parents are fooling themselves about what their children know and about what their children can handle. But the detailed accounts of a 15 year old being raped over and over and over? I would have to be very, very sure that the teen reading this was wise beyond her years.

The contradiction between my enjoyment of the craft and horror at the content is making this a very difficult book to review. Because despite my love affair with the writing and the structure, I am still only giving this an Accept rating. I find it painful to just read the above chapter, let alone the ones where she is being raped. Recommending this novel is like telling someone to get on the rack because it's such a well-crafted instrument of torture.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

Estella's Revenge; Linus's Blanket; S. Krishna's Books; Book Addiction;

Question: Those of you who have read this, are you glad you read it?  Those who haven't, do you plan on reading it and why or why not?


  1. I've read books like this before. Great writing, but brutally difficult to get through. It is hard to know how to recommend, because you know some people would not be able to get through it. YOu have done a wonderful job of stating your case though. Not sure if I'll read it, but loved your review.

  2. I don't think I'd pick this up. It's a difficult subject and I'm still not sure it's appropriate to categorize as Young Adult–interested young adults would still get their hands on it if it was categorized as simply contemporary fiction. The Twilight-esque cover makes me feel weird, I have to be honest.

  3. The contradiction you have here reminds me of what I feel for The Penal Colony by Kafka - it's masterfully done, but it was so gruesome and disgusting and horrifying, so that I have this conflict of deciding whether I ought to love it for its form, or hate it for its content.

  4. ==> "Recommending this novel is like telling someone to get on the rack because it's such a well-crafted instrument of torture."

  5. I would like to read this one because lately I have been reading a lot of books about this subject, and would like to see how this author handles it. The two that I have read most recently were Still Missing, and I'd Know You Anywhere, both very different, but both given a relatively happy ending. This book sounds like it would be very different than the others, and I am wondering what direction this book takes. Is it still up for grabs? If so, my email is heather(at)figearo(dot)net

  6. I had the same reaction as you. I read the book in one sitting because it was so gripping, but it was a pretty horrifying experience. I liked it (for the most part--I hated the ending), but I hated it at the same time. Mostly it just made me sick because I know there are girls (and boys!) out there who have lived that experience.

    Ultimately, it's an unforgettable book that I have no plans of ever reading again.

  7. Sandy - Usually I give my books to my mom after reading, but this one? Not a chance. There actually aren't many people who I know would be fine with reading this.

    Clare - The YA designation is definitely strange.

    Amanda - That's exactly how I feel with this book. We'll see how I feel a couple months from now..see if content or form wins.

    Care - It really was a painful read, but so very well done.

    Heather - It's yours! I'll send you an email and we can get things settled. I'm glad someone wanted this as I want to hear what other people think of it.

    Akilah - Exactly! I was wondering if this was the type of book that would stick with me or if it would just fade away.

  8. This is how I felt about We Need To Talk About Kevin. It blew my mind but it also messed my shit up and I wanted to TALK to people about it but I couldn't, in good conscience, recommend it to anyone.

  9. I definitely don't want to read this! I went through a period of time where I was reading a lot of novels and memoirs about sexual abuse, etc., but I just can't do it anymore. Too upsetting.

    I hadn't thought of it before but it does have a Twilight-lookalike cover, which is kinda disturbing. Very weird too that this would be designated as YA. I guess because the narrator is a teenager?

  10. Wow, this does sound like a difficult read. It's ironic but part of my job is interviewing kids about the details of their sexual abuse, and I'm able to handle that just fine, but for some reason when it's fiction, I have a much more difficult time handling it. Maybe I let my guard down more when I'm reading. I don't know.

  11. Wow, this sounds so so so hard to read, but important... I will add it to my wishlist, but will keep your warning in mind.

  12. I know what you mean about not knowing how to "recommend" books like these ... but it doesn't mean they shouldn't be read just because they are so hard to read. That said, I'm not sure I want to try this right now.

  13. I will definitely seriously consider this book, if only because you have made me curious.

  14. I really need to read this one.

  15. Raych - Exactly! I forced my cousin to read Living Dead Girl just so I could talk about it with someone!

    Avis - That would be my guess; the main character is 15, so YA. I used to read a lot about polygamy, and now even the thought just frustrates me too much.

    Jenny - I don't know how you do it! I have a cousin who is a "babysnatcher" (her own word) working for Child Services. Anything with kids in bad situations = really tough job.

    Amy - I think you should read it. It was so well done.

    Jenners - Exactly! These books should be read because of their difficulty; it draws attention to the reality of the situation. But you definitely have to be in the right mood.

    Stephanie - Ha! That's exactly why I got it in the first place, reading those other reviews made me curious.

    Pam - It's structured and written very well, so I definitely think that those who can handle it should read it.

  16. I had a hard time with this one. I thought the book overall was good; the writing was good and the author definitely took a chance with the subject matter and genre classification. But having a young daughter...this book scared me to death!

  17. I'm glad I read it because I like being able to talk about it. You know what a hard time I had with this one, and I can certainly agree that Scott has big ole balls.

  18. This sounds horrific. Usually, I admire authors of young adult novels who respect their young readers enough to be honest. But like you, I have mixed feelings about this one. I wouldn't want my 16-year-old to read this. If she really wanted to delve into it, I'd read it together, so we can hold each others' hands. :-)

  19. Gah I keep meaning to read this!


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