The Dragon Whistler

The Dragon Whistler
Now available in paperback.


Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

This is one of the most disturbing books I've ever encountered. There have been a few of these reads here over the past year: from Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why to Sang Pak's Wait Until Twilight. But Living Dead Girl (2008, Simon Pulse) by Elizabeth Scott literally made my stomach hurt for the full week it took for me to make it through the audio book edition -- you could say it's the perfect book for future Jodi Piccoult fans.

Like those other books, I struggled to see it through the eyes of its intended audience and not an adult and mother. Listed for ages 16 and up (most definitely not for a younger reader), Living Dead Girl is the story of 15-year-old Alice (not her real name) who has spent the past five years enslaved by her kidnapper Ray.

To say the man has issues doesn't even scrape the surface on the extent of the abuse he puts poor Alice through. And she isn't the first to experience Ray's unique brand of "love". Ray killed the first Alice because she was no longer a little girl. Now, as our narrator is nearing the same precipice of development, Ray enlists her help finding a new little girl to take her place.

Told in haunting first person present, Living Dead Girl numbly recounts the events of Alice's last five years. Her fear/hope of what is about to happen is mesmerizing. Scott does an amazing job of retaining the gritty realism of Alice's horrific experience without graphic details. Like a Hitchcock film, it's what isn't seen (or said) that horrifies. Making it all the more horrifying.

Readers (myself included) may not be thrilled with how Scott saves Alice from her living death, but will probably be forced to admit it was destined to play out that way.

As a piece of writing, it is stellar. Scott completely captures the blank numbness of emotional resolution that must accompany such a situation. As a reading selection, I can only imagine it would cause young girls to realize in great clarity the consequences of a single careless decision or misplaced trust.

Beyond that, though, is the underlying message that so many adults who had a chance to help Alice chose not to see the truth before their eyes. Even the ones who asked questions and plainly knew something was not right with this girl, didn't do what it took to save her. And in the end, Alice has to save herself in the only way she knows how.

Living Dead Girl is a powerful book that will make you think (about things you don't want to think about). 4 1/2 bookmarks.

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