Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Simon Pulse, 2008
Summary from Goodreads:
Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time, my name was not Alice.
Once upon a time, I didn’t know how lucky I was.
When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends, her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.Oh my lord, this is my Most Awesomely Horrifying Read Of All Time (aka my MAHROAT). This story was so difficult for me to read as a mother and as a reader. The girl we know as Alice is kidnapped while on a field trip just before her tenth birthday. When we meet her, she has turned fifteen and is waiting for Ray to decide she's too old, so he will kill her and she can be free. He forces her to great lengths to try and keep her at a young age--dresses her in childish clothes, barely feeds her so she'll stay skinny, and even makes her take medication to prevent her period.
Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.
This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.
You guys, this is not a gentle read--Ray does unspeakable things to Alice, sexually, physically, and psychologically. However, Elizabeth Scott's prose is exquisite in this novel and readers will quickly come to care about Alice. As the narrator, Alice gives us short, succinct chapters that matter-of-factly describe the details of her existence. We learn only the bare minimum of who Alice was before Ray, and rightly so. She knows that there is no hope of ever being that girl again, that even if she were to be returned to her family she will never be the same girl, and she knows there's no point in spending time playing "what if?" or dreaming about the past.
We can absolutely understand why Alice is reluctant to try and escape. Ray is a man of his word, and his word is that he will do horrible things to the family Alice once knew if she were to leave him. It's very easy to say that we'd do this or say this, but Alice shows us that it's not always as easy as it seems. When Alice learns about Ray's new, improved plan (instead of simply killing her), she sees her chance for escape. Again, the readers are with Alice as she has to decide between two horrible choices, and the ending of this novel will leave you speechless.
I tend to drift towards the darker side of realistic fiction when I read, although I'm not really sure why. I tell you, it doesn't get any darker than Living Dead Girl. I first read this book two years ago, and the story has sat with me all this time. I didn't even really need to re-read it for this review, but I really, really wanted to. This story isn't for everyone, but for those who enjoy dark, gritty realistic fiction, this is the one that tops them all. Living Dead Girl is, for me, the standard by which all other dark realistic novels must live up to.
Enjoy your reading!