A Short Book, Long Thoughts

When I was going to write this post, it was going to be a seething post about how horrible a book this was. Now, I’m a wee bit conflicted about how I feel. In fact, I pretty much take everything back. Not all, but a lot.

The book was called Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. I didn’t know what genre it was, just read the description and borrowed it. Now I find out it’s a book for teens, and feel dead stupid for being so hard on her for the way she wrote it, and feel even dumber for choosing it. But it did make me think, so I guess it served its purpose.

The story is that a man kidnaps a young girl from a class trip. He is so slick, putting a baseball cap on her head making her look like a boy, that nobody connects the boy who left with him with the girl who goes missing. He renames her Alice, convinces her that the only way he would take her home would be to go there and kill her whole family while she watched, shows her newspaper clippings about the last girl he had kidnapped and killed, and puts her through horrible things to satisfy his own sexual depravity. But on the outside, he seems like a nice guy, and everybody thinks he is home-schooling his daughter because she has special needs.

Eventually, she is growing up too much to satisfy his need to have a little girl, so he makes her find a new little girl to kidnap. From beginning to end, the story is dark, hopeless, and it seems the message is that we are all either unobservant, evil, or dirty.

I think part of the problem was the book was too short. Everything happened too fast. When the second scene in the whole book is rape, how can things get any worse? You just shut down. You can’t handle that so fast.

Another thing I think is you are not allowed to come to any conclusions. They are shoved forcefully down your throat, probably because there isn’t time to flesh anything out slowly. You are told about her captor, Ray’s past. You are told what Ray’s mother would do to him. You are told straight up that Ray has nightmares where he begs his mom not to touch him there. It is all told to you, and you are just expected to believe it. There is no discovery. It’s just laid out there, without warning.

The third evil thought I couldn’t help but have was that the author was deriving some kind of pleasure from describing so much sexual abuse. It felt like it was a pedophile’s romance novel, and I just couldn’t take it. But I think that was my own mind putting up defenses against hearing about it. It had to vilify the author. It had to be the author’s fault. It wasn’t the fault of the evil character, or the fact that it does happen. It had to be the author’s fault.

As I read more of the book, I began to get angry at Alice. I felt for her, but then I would get angry. She would say that nobody noticed, but when someone did, she would throw them off the trail. You’re not making it easy, kid. Then part of me would understand that it wasn’t her fault, it was his for screwing up her mind so badly that she was afraid to reach out and get help. But I would still be pissed off, saying how can she blame the world for not saving her when she won’t let them? I think that comes from me working in social work, and knowing you can’t force help on someone, you can only offer it…and I wanted to strangle her for blaming everyone, even the ones who tried to help, for not looking. They looked, they saw, you pushed them away!

There were times when I grew to hate Alice, hate her for manipulating a boy who she saw as easy to manipulate, hate her for breaking that kid’s pencil out of spite, hate her and think about how she wasn’t worth saving, wasn’t capable of being redeemed. Then I’d hate myself for hating her. She didn’t ask to be Alice, after all.

Then there were moments when I thought Alice would turn and stand up for herself, moments when I wanted to cheer…but she slumped back down just as quickly.

And then there were really stupid moments, like near the end. He was going to go kidnap the new little girl and get Alice to help him, but he got mad, and he stabbed her in the shoulder. After a neighbour knocked on the door and he convinced them that everything was fine, he took Alice to go kidnap the girl, and still wanted her to help…and didn’t do anything about the bleeding. So there she is, wandering around the playground bleeding. Yeah, and that’s believable. What happened to all the stuff about hiding the evidence and covering up? It all feels like it’s unravelling, and all the rules don’t matter.

I wasn’t even going to write about this book. But then I had a dream about it. I dreamed there was a conference called the Shitty Authors’ Conference. Yep, that was the name of it. I don’t know why I was there, I appeared to be watching to see who showed up and truly believed they were a shitty author. Elizabeth Scott showed up, and there was Raymond Feist, and Aaron Rayburn, and Dean Koontz, and even Sue Grafton was there to become un-shitty, and Ro’s friend Joni was trying to show them how not to suck at writing. What a silly dream!

But I did finish the book practically in one sitting, and I did want to see how it ended, so I guess it wasn’t all bad. Has anyone else read this one? Do you think what I do?

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