My head throbs from a caffeine hangover and my veins feel sluggish, like I’ve been dosed with morphine. Snow falls on New York on the second day of spring, and I realize, belatedly, that Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott, is the absolute wrong book to read on the subway in the mornings. It’s not an energizing choice, an uplifting choice. It makes you want to end the day instead of begin it. The young adult author has written a decidedly not young adult novella that makes me want to use buzz words like “stark” and “spare” and “gut-wrenching,” and then makes me not want to use any words at all because I’m too busy hunching over, cradling my midsection, and trying to un-see the picture Scott has painted with such precise, black, white, and red strokes of her pen. That’s why it’s safer to tilt my head back and watch the big, fat snowflakes, I suppose.
Living Dead Girl, which will forever now color the Rob Zombie song of the same name, is about a young woman named Alice, whose rabbit hole takes her anywhere but Wonderland. Scott doesn’t flinch from a tale of systematic, prolonged abuse, doesn’t spare the reader one bit, because Alice’s captor Ray doesn’t spare her. The character is beaten down, broken, molded into the shape this predator wants her to be in, and her desperation is raw and ugly. It’s a short book, what should be a quick read, but it feels without end. I can’t remember the last time I read a book like this, and I don’t know that I would want to read another of its ilk. It’s just too hard.
That said, I really think this work of Scott’s should join the annals of so many young adult books before it that will never be forgotten. Her previous novels, like her debut Bloom, have been wonderful, but this one… this one is a watershed.
I can’t help but think of another work of young adult fiction, one that’s considered a “classic” because of it’s handling of dark issues: Go Ask Alice. But only because of the name. Because in asking Scott‘s Alice, the reader receives answers that nobody wants to believe could possibly be true. Too bad they are. Too bad children suffer what this character suffers every single day, and shutting the book, tucking it back into my purse and getting off the train, doesn’t end their story.