Retro Friday Reviews is a feature/meme hosted by Angie of Angieville where you review an older title on Friday.
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott is an emotional read detailing ‘Alice’s’ torment at the hands of her captor, Ray. This was one of the books challenged during the whole Bitch Media 100 YA Books For The Feminist list kerfluffle. As I recall there was a comment on there alleging that Living Dead Girl is ‘torture porn.’ I don’t even know if I read the same book as the commentor. I saw this as an incredibly heartbreaking portrayal of the evil lurking below the surface of some people.
‘Alice’, not her real name, is abducted at a young age by Ray, a pedo who likes little girls. She’s 15 and we read about her terrifying day to day existence – where she is starved to maintain a little girl-esque body and sent to get brazillian waxes by professionals to keep up the facade. However, time is running short for ‘Alice’ as she looks more and more older by day and Ray is out to find a new ‘Alice’.
I think Elizabeth Scott does an excellent job of capturing the fear felt by victims of sexual assault. Although Alice’s situation is not common, 73% of rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, Living Dead Girl shows the psychological effect sexual assault has. ‘Alice’ has the opportunity to walk to the grocery store alone and pick up groceries. She could run away, but she doesn’t. I know you may question ‘why doesn’t she run away’ which is ultimately victim blaming. However, she has been groomed by Ray, this means that he has molded her to what he wants. He assures her that if she tells, he will kill her family. This is a very real fear. Especially when you have been told this from a very young age.
Further, I’ve seen reviews on goodreads where people stated they did not like this because ‘Alice’ was not relatable or likeable. My opinion, sexual assault victims are people. We don’t always like every single person we meet. Scott doesn’t make ‘Alice’ into a martyr or a saint, but a real person with faults. I wonder if maybe we have this default victim mode in our minds where we expect people who have been through ordeals to be Christlike, instead of allowing them to be human. And really, I think the real tragedy in Living Dead Girl isn’t how unlikeable ‘Alice’ is.
I think the true tragedy is how unwilling the bystanders in Living Dead Girl were to do anything. Just because you aren’t a mandated reporter doesn’t mean it’s okay to just standby without a word. For example, the ladies who gave ‘Alice’ her weekly Brazilian wax. Wouldn’t that set off alarm bells to you, a young girl getting a Brazilian? And yet, they just took the money and stood by, never once giving the police a call. Or the grocery store clerk who sees Alice come by to buy food for Ray. Or the neighbors who instead of helping Alice just want their children to stay away from her. That bothers me. You don’t have to fight off the offender to step in. You can delegate and call the police with an anonymous tip. That frustrates me to no end. And, I think Scott did a great job inciting righteous indignation on my end.
Now, as far as this book being triggering, I think that it could be. However, I also believe in the power of bibliotherapy, and I think because this book does humanize a sexual assault victim, it can be therapeutic because it doesn’t show ‘Alice’ as perfect. I believe triggering is not something to be downplayed and that it is very real, however, I also believe that people have their own internal barometers. If something really bothers me, I set it down or stop watching it. I think most people are willing to do the same.
Disclosure: Purchased copy.