on October 7, 2008
Terrifying. Devastating. Tragic.
Those are the three words that come to mind when I think of Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl. After finishing it in one sitting late last night, I'm still trying to catch my breath and desperately trying to get rid of the weight that seems to have settled on my chest. But I think it will be a long time before this happens because what has happened to "Alice" in the book can happen to a child in real life...probably has happened.
The book is told from the point of view of "Alice" a fifteen-year old girl who was kidnapped on an elementary school field trip when she was 10. Her captor, Ray, has sexually and physically abused her every day since he kidnapped her. He starves her because he doesn't want her to physically mature, he terrorizes her and tells her that he'll kill her parents and burn their house down if she tries to escape. I'm putting "Alice" in parentheses because that is not her real name. It's the name Ray gave her, the same name he gave the girl he kidnapped and killed before he kidnapped the second Alice.
Alice calls herself a "living dead girl." She's numb inside, she's hungry, she's been tortured so much that she wishes for death. She's waiting for it, hoping for it, expecting it any day; but Ray has something different in mind that is even more terrifying to the reader, and he needs Alice's help.
I've always heard stories about people getting kidnapped and having many opportunities to escape, but they don't. This is Alice's case. There are multiple opportunities for her to tell someone, to run away, to ask for help, but Ray has instilled so much fear in her that she doesn't even think about it anymore.
She truly believes that he will kill her parents, and at one point she says, "I could run, but he would find me. He would take me back to 623 Daisy Lane and make everyone who lives there pay. He would make everyone there pay even if he didn't find me. I belong to him. I'm his little girl. All I have to do is be good" (p. 34).
What is most profound is that Ray has brainwashed her to the point of her believing that she's bad, she's selfish, and that it's all her fault. On the day of the kidnapping, she wouldn't share her lip gloss with her friends. They walked away from her, leaving her alone and exposed to a monster, but she blames herself, thinks if she wouldn't have been so selfish, her life would be different. It's truly heartbreaking.
But the worst part is that people look the other way. They know something's not right, but don't step in.
Scott's writing is gripping, captivating, and horrifying. She draws you in from the very beginning, and Alice immediately becomes real, someone you ache for, someone who you want to make it, someone you want to pluck out of this nightmare of a life. If you're wondering about the language and descriptions in the book, it is evident that Ray is sexually abusing Alice. It's evident that sexual acts are being performed, but the language itself is not graphic.
When discussing why she wrote Living Dead Girl, Elizabeth Scott says, " I wrote Living Dead Girl because it demanded to be told, and I hope it speaks to you as strongly as it did to me." (read more at Simon & Schuster's website).
Did I like the story? Honestly, no. I don't like stories about children being sexually abused. Was it well-written? Absolutely. Should every parent read it? Absolutely. Should teens read it? I want to say yes. I want to say that it could potentially save lives, but it's scary. All I want to do is scoop my daughter up and never let her go.
on January 22, 2011
First of all, this book is intended for mature readers, I know it says 16 and up, and well I'm fourteen, so I feel that my age and up can handle this novel, IF they are mature readers. Eleven year olds SHOULD not read this book, so all those reviews from mothers about their daughters crying and having nightmares is total garbage. Living Dead Girl is realistic. Reading this book, I didn't exactly feel like I was eating cotton candy and riding carnival rides, but I didn't want to go hide in my closet either. Granted, that's my opinion, and I may just be able to stomach more violent topics. This book isn't explicit. Heck, I don't even think she cusses once. When you pick this novel up, don't expect it to sound like a porno, for the author to describe in explicit detail what happens to "Alice" because she doesn't. The worst part about this book is that, I think because of the topic, your imagination already conjures up all the horrible things that have happened to "Alice" before you get to chapter 3. The book isn't gripping in the sense that putting down is impossible, it's gripping in that you NEED to finish it, to make YOURSELF feel better. It's compelling in that you NEED to finish Alice's story, you need to know what happens to her. The ending is ambiguous, I have to say, and I had to read it a few times to fully understand what happened, and even then it leaves it open to the reader to decide what happened. This definetly isn't number one on my must reads list, but I do think everyone should read this book, even if you end up not enjoying the novel, the story, or the message it sends. I think everyone should understand what it feels like to be a living dead girl.
This book kept me engaged right from the beginning. I sat down and read it in one sitting. This is always a sign of a good book.
This story, told through the eyes of Alice (self proclaimed Living Dead Girl), is of a girl who was abducted five years ago on a school field trip just before her tenth birthday. It tells of what life is like with Ray the man who abducted her, the man who controls every aspect of her life including how much and what she can eat. Like her, the book is very bare bones- yet chocked full of raw emotion of being stuck living a life with no emotion. A life of being a girl that no one sees...no one will save. A girl who wants out of the misery she feels, yet sees no way out.
When I got it I was surprised that the book was seemingly so short- however I was unable to put this book down. I was equally horrified and yet left wanting to know what was going to happen next. I can only give this book four stars however, because I was disappointed in the way it ended. It was far too abrupt and left this reader wanting to know more about what happened after the end of the book. I don't want to go too much into detail and ruin the story- but it was far too abrupt.
A fair warning: This book does deal with strong subject matter and violence. Young or sensitive readers might want to select an alternate book or parents of such readers may want to read this book with their young adults.
on March 12, 2011
I read this book six months ago, and for six months I considered whether nor not I would review it. Today I decided not to, because the book had stuck with me in such a powerful and painful way. But here I am now offering a review.
Living Dead Girl is an intense, graphic and frightening story that sadly though fiction is a telling of a truth we all know is out there. I have never read anything that felt so real and was so painful. It is a story about Alice, a 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped at age 10 by a pedophile. The reader walks with Alice through her tortured life. Feeling her pain even more at this point than the often numb young girl who is doing what must be done to survive.
My heart went out to Alice, and I know that there are many Alice's out there. Many young children whose lives have been consumed by some of the most twisted individuals to walk the earth. Living Dead Girl painfully lets the reader into the very sad existence of a stolen child whose identity has been systematically dismantled while she has been forced into a nightmare reality. This story was so painful for me that I wanted to just push it away. I truly did not know whether or not to share this review, because it was so painful. I had read reviews of this book long before I read it, and each was very good and clear with their opinion. Amazingly, nothing really prepared me for what I was going to read.
According to School Library Journal it is recommended for grades 9 and up. Publishers Weekly recommended age 16 and up. My recommendation will take a lot longer than just listing an age. Mainly it is only this, Living Dead Girl is a disturbing novel. It is extremely well written and heart wrenching. It definitely impacted me. It disturbed me. It made me sad. It tore me up. It is a book that certainly opens the eyes to the nightmare of an abducted child.
I do not have a daughter, but I do have a son. This is a book that I would not give him to read. He is 16. What this book did for me is it gave me enough new perspective to revisit the dialogue we have had in the past about abduction and about what he should do if he ever notices something that seems not right about a child or a child's guardian. For me that was the important aspect of the book. It got me to talk with him again about not just about the "bewares" of life but the "be awares" of life if that makes sense. It was totally disturbing for me, and I don't think he could handle actually reading it. No...I know he wouldn't. I know him well. I would recommend it for an adult only. At the very least I would recommend that a parent should read it first, and decide if it is something that they think their child can handle. We all know our own children best.
I want to again clarify that I think Living Dead Girl is well written. It is just one of the most painful stories I have ever read. The author did an amazing job taking me to a place I hope to never revisit.
on November 9, 2015
I hate and love books like this because it is true. Though i don't believe this book is appropriate for young minds, not even 16 yr olds, I believe it is every adult and parents duty to STRESS the importance and with as much detail the dangers of falling victim, without being graphic!!!. As a child I had many classes warning me against such predatory classes from friends, school and family. But i still fell victim. I am likewise, a Survivor and now a young single mom to beautiful little girl, finally safe and hiding away from 'him'. We are now so very happy, but it is important to speak up and speak out against abuse of everykind. It is true that the trauma kills us, even destroys who we are, but many of us are rebuilt into something stronger that no man or 'woman' can tear down. We do have happy endings, we do find peace, though it may take us years, maybe even our whole lives, we do find joy again. I understand I am one of few that made it back alive and safe and know that angels were looking out for me and my daughter. The silence we kept, of what has happened to us victims or I prefer Survivors, is more delibitating than the crimes itself. Overcoming the belief of the lies that our predator told us is the biggest struggle of all. Of course I am still scared from my experiences and I still have nightmares but I now have the desire and strength to speak against abuse, ESPECIALLY concerning CHILDREN! I know that these monsters will pay as I believe in Christ and the eternal plan of salvation but until then, I will do what I can to save as many as possible. Things like this are real. And unfortunatly, it happens daily. Weekly. 9 times out of 10 the victim is "taken/abused" by someone they know. Speak up and speak out against abuse. Save the children. Keep your eyes open. If you see something, please dont be afraid to follow your gut. Your usually right.
on November 19, 2008
"It will be over soon, finally, but the thing about hearts is that they always want to keep beating."
They call him "Silent Ray" at work. He likes that. He is in control. The police woman in the park likes him, too. They both feel sorry for the skinny, little girl because she doesn't look as if she has anyone caring for her. They agree that it's such a pity the way some children are treated. Ray hates to see them hurt. They're special and magical --- especially little girls. There are people out there, they call them "perverts," who do awful things to kids. Ray has no use for anything like that. He has his own little girl and takes very good care of her. She is his and does anything he says. Yes, he takes very good care of his "Alice." But something is happening to Alice --- she's getting taller, and no matter how little he lets her eat, she's growing. That's just not good. Something has to be done.
Living Dead Alice
Her name isn't really Alice. She used to be Kyla. She was 10 years old and thought the man was being so helpful. Now Kyla is dead because that is the only way to be with Ray. Her heart keeps beating, but it's dead. How can that be? Ray will kill her parents if she runs. If only they knew what happens when the door closes and he takes her. Sometimes he almost kills her and then kisses away the bruises, the bloodied lips, the torn flesh, the bite marks. She belongs to him. He is all-powerful, she is nothing. Ray's charm fools them all, but Alice knows:
"Ray is missing something other than his soul. It's like you see him, and he's a person, but if you look close enough, you can tell that he's not. Like underneath his skin, he's not hollow. He's rotted out."
She wants to be free, away from his hot hands, his grasping and his hurting. No one sees, no one hears, no one does anything to help her. If she dares save herself, what is the cost? Where is freedom? Could it be the boy in the park and his little sister? The police woman? The neighbor? Please, somebody, before it's too late, too late, too late.
Like Robert Cormier, Elizabeth Scott has dared to take a picture no one wants to see. This is, without question, one of the most emotionally difficult reads I've experienced. Any parent will cringe at the flawless way Ray is able to kidnap Kyla. Anyone reading this book will be so horrified they won't want to finish it, yet they will not be able to put it down. Scott's spare language, as she speaks through Alice's character, is powerful, gripping and heart-wrenching. The final page will leave you stunned. For mature readers only, be ready for some deep discussions on this one.
--- Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts
This book is small, short, sparse. Not a lot of pages or words but the imprint of what is written will linger long after you put the book down. I read a lot of thrillers and a lot of YA. I thought I'd probably have read this story before, wondered how this author would approach the topics of child abduction, molestation, rape, imprisonment. Suffice to say that Scott was master of the task. The life of Alice in Ray's prison was hell and terror, fright and pain. She was starved, abused, beaten and repeatedly forced to sexual surrender to a man who was himself abused by a sexual sadist (his mother). Alice no longer hopes for release or for any other life, that dream has been destroyed along with her girlhood. As she grows from a child of 10 to a teen of 15, Ray no longer is happy with her body or her attitude. He wants a new girl and has assigned Alice to help him acquire her. Alice is powerless to resist, beaten down by 5 years of submission and only longs for the substitute to release her from this bond. She can't say NO. The new girl has been chosen and then what will happen to Alice? The last Alice was killed, and yet, that is a release of sorts. No one sees, no one hears, no one there to help.
on February 7, 2012
One of the most horrifying stories I have ever read simply because it happens every day to innocent little girls and boys across the nation. I live in a county that has one small town and is mostly rural, yet there are more than 100 registered pedophiles in my area alone, at least one on my street. My grandson cannot play in his own yard safely, so he's stuck in front of the X-box. Elizabeth Smart was one of the very few miracle girls that eventually get to go home. But I saw some of Alice's symptoms in Eliz. Smart even though she was missing for only months, not years. Most are thrust into God's arms long before their time. I recommend this short book, but warn that it is a very painful read.
on November 10, 2012
Read more: [...]
Chilling. Devastating. Living Dead Girl is a story of every parent's, and every child's, worst nightmare. We enter the world of Alice, five years after she has been kidnapped by the abusive Ray. The story winds between her memories of that fateful day and her struggle to escape his new plan for her: find a new Alice. This isn't for the weak stomached. Alice goes through some of the worst torture, physical and sexual, a person can experience. In books like this, it's easy for the the violence to become maudlin or offensively exploitative. Instead of a meaningful book, it becomes little better than a shower scene in a slasher film. Scott avoids that pitfall. By focusing on Alice's mental and emotional reactions rather than the details of the tortures, she shows a faithful picture of the horror without making it tacky. Alice is instantly lovable and her story is a mix of thriller and memoir that picks up and doesn't let go.
plot . 5/5
There's no slow buildup. You're thrown right into Alice's hell. It's an interesting choice. We see the kidnapping and glimpses of the past several years in flashback chapters, but not directly. We see her memories. It allows the story to pick up right away and to avoid getting down in a lot of exposition. It also allows us to come in at Alice's worst moment: the moment Ray says he has a new plan for her. This plan, to steal another child, is horrifying in itself, and a clever literary choice. It shows us just how broken Alice is mentally--so desperate for freedom from her abuse that she'll do anything to remove Ray's attention from her. The ending is abrupt, but I don't think it would have been good for it to drag either.
concept . 5/5
You see it a lot on crime shows, but this is the first book I've read about it. It's a rare and horrific thing, kidnapping and sexual slavery. It make for a book that could be sensationalized. Used as "torture porn." It's not. Scott does a great job of portraying Alice's life faithfully. The story focuses mostly on her inner thoughts and reactions, so we see the true damage caused by this situation, beyond just the physical. It's an important point to make, and it underscores the message of the title--Living Dead Girl--perfectly.
characters . 5/5
There aren't many characters. Alice lives a secluded life with her abuser, who doesn't even appear in the text as often as you'd expect. However, we still know him intimately. We know him through Alice's descriptions of his abuse. Her fear of him. The details she slips about his life and his threats. We even pity him, briefly, while still hating him. In the same way, Jake is both lovable and loathable. He's no prince charming, but he's as deeply broken as Alice and looking for any way to escape. He's that dark part of all of us.
style . 5/5
The style is beautiful, lyrical, poetic at times. But not in a flowery way. It shows how deeply Alice lives in her inner world. Dead, but still moving through the world. Still forming impressions. Her voice has a dreamlike, trancelike quality to it--perfect for a zombie, a Living Dead Girl. It's gorgeous writing that you don't get to see much in the young adult genre.
mechanics . 5/5
Part flashback, part thriller, part philosophy. We get impressions, memories, thoughts, dreams--it's like being inside of Alice's head. And of course the formatting is polished and pretty.
take home message
A chilling slice of a tortured life that shows just how deeply abuse can leave scars, in and out.
on November 5, 2015
I first read this book when I was an immature thirteen-year-old girl. I had discovered it at my public library and decided to give it a read. I was shocked as soon as my eyes skimmed the first line. Not only that, but I was intrigued by the content. I remember reading it within two hours and the book being covered in my salty tears. I was glum, I was fascinated, and I was a little disappointed. Yet, it was a good disappointment when I read the last lines. Again, I was thirteen and still somewhat comprehended the meaning of the story. I will not, however, be able to say that I understood what was happening. I did know though, that I was in love with the book and felt the need to check it out every week. I was thoroughly dispirited when my library decided that it was not suited for teens. I had forgotten about it after not being able to find it for two years and finally saw it on my suggested list. I bought it immediately and continue to read it whenever I find the time. I will forever appreciate this story and your writing.