Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl

I am in love with my library today. I've really just begun using my new local library, after moving here this summer; it has a lovely online catalogue that makes it easy to make an online queue and just pick up my desired books at the library. Not that I can resist a little browsing, of course.

I read the first of the new YA books I picked up while waiting for dinner to cook last night, and it was... interesting. I read Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. I tried to avoid spoilers below, but there are definite clues to the ending (I can't review this one without including them) so please just be aware if this is on your reading list.

This is one of those books that is hard to process. While it is a YA novel, it's similar in vein to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, I think. Both are bleak stories, although in Sebold's book, the character dies in the beginning, while in Scott's book, the main character is waiting for death.

Kidnapped at the age of 10,  abused in every imaginable way, and forced to answer to the name "Alice", she just wants it all to end.  To do that, she thinks she is willing to kidnap another little girl for Ray, which is his new fantasy. She knows the previous Alice was murdered when she became too old to be attractive to Ray, and she is more than ready to be replaced as well.

This is a dark, dark book. I'm glad it's a very quick read, because reading about Alice's abuse is so psychologically painful. I think Scott masterfully portrays why Alice does not run away, even when she might have the opportunity to escape, which renders this story very believable. The way she is abused is vivid, although thankfully, she passes over the sexual scenes with hints of the abuse that are terrible enough.  The descriptions in this book - the things Alice goes through - are heart-crushing. And for the first 150 pages, I thought it might be unrelenting bleak.

This book does have a redeeming ending, though. Not a happy ending, per se, but it ends on a note of strength and hope.  Thank god for that.  This is the sort of book that leaves you feeling wrung-out, and I was relieved to be left with a semblence of relief for Alice, and the Alices that might have come after. 

Did I like this book? That I'm not quite sure about it. I do think it is very well-written.  I liked it better than I remember liking The Lovely Bones, which I might have to re-read now, in order to better understand what about The Lovely Bones did not work for me.  Living Dead Girl is just the kind of book that makes it hard to breathe, that makes your gut tighten.  If you're willing to be a little haunted, this might be something you'd want to read.

Added 1 February 2011: I have to say, at the end of 2010, this is a story that came to mind as one of the most memorable - and best- things I read all year. Probably not a book I'd ever re-read, but I am so glad I read it. I wanted to leave up my original feelings when the book was still fresh for me and I was a bit disturbed and conflicted, but I absolutely recommend it.


Kristy said...

I've had similar experiences with books and movies that have left me feeling torn... wondering why I read or watched it in the first place. I could recognize that it was well-written (or portrayed well) but am hesitant to say "I liked it."

Guinevere said...

I'm glad I'm not alone, Kristy. I feel like I shouldn't, but I really shy away from works like this that focus on the terrible things done to a person. I just hate reading about someone being hurt (or seeing it in a film... there's no way I'd ever watch a movie like An American Murder, for instance).

I did a lot of research and writing on the Holocaust for my undergrad degree, and that always left me depressed, but it's so relevant to remember. I struggle with the detailed portrayal of human brutality when I'm not sure of its redeeming value.