This was another book I read on audio during my summer road trip. I don't even know why it took me so long to get this review together, as I loved this book.
A little while before reading this book, I was speaking to a friend* who used to do therapy work with sex offenders. He has a theory that there is a difference between child molesters and pedophiles. Child molesters know what they're doing is bad. Oftentimes, they resort to alcohol or drugs to get past the conscience barrier that prevents them from carrying out their urges. But pedophiles? They don't think they're doing anything wrong. They actually believe that their actions are an expression of love towards the children. And out of the two groups, pedophiles are the really scary ones.
As I was listening to Living Dead Girl, I couldn't help but repeat this conversation in my head. Ray, without a doubt, is a pedophile. He actually believes he is in love with Alice--that he is taking care of her, teaching her to act the way she should, doing anything in his power to maintain her youth. Of course, there is no tenderness in this care--there is only threats, violence, and domination. But while you never sympathize with Ray, you can never stop seeing him as human.
Alice is even more well-realized. You can see the way her five years with Ray have warped her mind. She sees Ray as an all-powerful, all-knowing figure, and even when she does overcome her own feelings of helplessness and plans to escape, her thoughts and priorities never veer from "fucked up." It's even more disturbing in the way she views other people: she barely feels sympathy for the girl she plans to help Ray kidnap, and even though she wants to protect her family, she never thinks about the possibility of returning to them after escaping. Instead, she hopes that she will be locked in prison, where she will be safe and be allowed to grow fat enough that no one will want to touch her again. Even in her moments of strength, she never stops being a victim. There is no heroism here, and that's what makes this book so real. Alice's potential "saviors" are a drug-addled teenage boy and a cop who knows something is wrong, but still hasn't put the whole picture together yet. (Some people might take issue with Alice's immoral decisions or the way she sometimes implies that her kidnapping was "deserved", but honestly, I think Elizabeth Scott does a very good job with the nuances of Alice's mentality. To present Alice's situation as something that could be easily overcome by a virtuous protagonist would be nothing short of offensive towards those who still suffer the scars of kidnapping and pedophilia.)
Another thing I noticed about this book is the way it sometimes seemed to touch upon our own society's obsession with youth. I don't think the author was going so far as to suggest that pedophilia is a result of this obsession, but as someone who is afraid of growing older (I just turned twenty-four and am only now beginning to see myself as an adult), this book hit a little too close to home.
Stylistically, this book was beautifully written, and Kate Reinders was the perfect choice of audiobook narrator.
Needless to say, I highly recommend this book.
*I really should give credit where credit is due. My friend is John Minus, whose writings can be found here: http://exiteleven.blogspot.com/