Sunday, December 11, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue VS Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Having just finished reading another disturbing novel based on a crime that seems to be happening more and more frequently, I felt the need to process the icky feelings brought up by these stories.  Even though I can't really say that I enjoyed either of these books, they shine a light on a dark part of our society that begs our attention.  These are books that I believe should be read, but I hesitate to recommend them to my friends.

The following are my reviews of Room and Living Dead Girl, two very different stories of girls who were abducted and imprisoned by men who used them for sex.  Room is adult fiction and Living Dead Girl is young adult fiction.  Anyone who thinks that YA literature isn't worthwhile for adults should consider what C.S. Lewis said about children's books:  "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."

Room by Emma Donoghue  

Unlike many other reviewers who seem to either love or hate this book, I find myself solidly in the middle of these two extremes.  First of all, the subject is an icky one, ripped from an all-too-common lurid headline.  A sicko kidnaps a young girl and imprisons her for years so that he can repeatedly rape and abuse her.  Second, the story is narrated by Jack, a five year old boy whose entire life has been contained in Room, an 11' x 11' space he shares with Ma.  Having a child narrate the story takes a bit of the edge off.  Since Jack's mother protects him from the reality of her situation as best as she can, and he is very young, he doesn't understand that he and Ma are prisoners.  The downside is that we don't get the whole story, simply because Jack can't tell us everything.  I found Jack's voice extremely annoying at first, though he did grow on me as the novel progressed.

Ma has done her best to care for Jack and to provide a happy life for him, despite the limitations of their captivity.  She keeps him busy during the daytime and at night puts him to sleep in Wardrobe, where "Old Nick" won't see him when he visits.  It's hard to know what else to say in a review, as the story is definitely more powerful if allowed to unfold without spoilers.  I'll just say that I was compelled to keep reading, even though the book is not perfect and the subject matter is disturbing.

My review:  THREE STARS

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

"Alice" was abducted by Ray when she was 10 years old. Now 15, she has been his captive for five years. She has been repeatedly brutalized by Ray--raped, starved, threatened, and beaten physically and emotionally until she is nothing but an empty shell, a living dead girl that nobody sees or hears. She knows it's only a matter of time before Ray kills her and finds a new "Alice." But instead, he comes up with a new plan. He wants her to find a new girl for him and then help him train her. 

This is not a happy story. It is horrifying and will haunt you long after you turn the final page. For mature readers only.

My review:  FIVE STARS

In the end, though these stories are based on a similar premise, Living Dead Girl is the one that grabbed me by the throat and kept me riveted from the first line to the last.  The language is spare and beautiful. Room, for me, simply didn't execute as well.  It did eventually draw me in, but felt more gimmicky and lacked the haunting beauty that so enthralled me in Living Dead Girl.  

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