Friday, April 15, 2011

Living Dead Girl

I think a lot about censorship, as a teacher, classroom librarian, and frequent recommender of books. In my previous school, I was the main person providing books to students aged 10 - 14. Our island did not have a bookstore nor a library, the majority of parents were not reading YA books, and the society in general was religious. Finally, we had a limited budget for books, so I needed to order books that would be suitable for as many students as possible. All of these factors led me to skew fairly conservative when recommending books. I don't believe in banning books, but it turns out I am quite the censor! I am not sure how to reconcile this, except that I try to do my best for my students.

Living Dead Girl is definitely a book that brings out the censors. Elizabeth Scott's searing story of a girl who is kidnapped and spends five years being sexually and psychologically abused hits the reader right in the gut. It has been listed as ages 16 and older, which sounds right to me. While the descriptions in the novel are not explicit, it is very obvious what is happening to Alice, almost on a daily basis.

At only 176 pages, Scott makes all of her words count. Living Dead Girl is gripping and beautifully written. Still, I wonder what the reader gets from the experience, aside from a haunted feeling. The bleak ending offers little hope and leaves the reader feeling powerless. Maybe that was Scott's intention, to give the reader a sense of how futile Alice's situation seemed to her. It left me feeling watchful, shaken, and hopelessly sad. Written for readers far older than my students, I don't have to think about recommending this book to my students. If I was teaching high school, I wonder if I would.

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