A 2018 debut novel by T.E. Carter. Ellie Frietas has been tormented through middle school, so she tries to blend in when she goes to high school. This earns her the attention of popular jerk Caleb, who convinces her that they can be secretly boyfriend and girlfriend. Unknown to Ellie, though, Caleb is dangerously in the thrall of his older, sadistic brother, Noah, and together they abduct, rape, and murder Ellie. She, forgotten in their deprived, lost town, watches over her own murder trial and tries to reckon with her memories of what has happened to her, and what it means to get justice.
This book contains examples of:
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Pointedly subverted, alongside The Nothing After Death. Ellie keeps expecting any of these things to happen, but they never do. It isn't clear if there is anywhere to go, or anything to transform into, or even to stop - but Ellie never meets any other "ghosts", which suggests that what happens to her is special in some way.
- Bittersweet Ending: Although leaning heavily towards the bitter. Caleb and Noah are acquitted of all the rapes they committed, meaning none of their living victims get justice. The rape victims are left to struggle with their trauma and the fact that they weren't believed. They do, at least, go to prison for murdering Ellie - which seemed in no way a certainty - which means they can't hurt anybody else. Ellie's father does end up dating, but only years after his daughter's death, and it's clear that he'll never be the same. Ellie herself ends up as a ghost who can't communicate with anyone, it's not clear if she'll ever move on or if there's anywhere to go, but at least she saw her rapists and murderers be recognized for what they were.
- Daddy's Girl: Ellie loves her father Alex (and him her) more than she can ever say, but she finds it impossible to communicate with him...even before she died.
- Downer Beginning: Ellie is raped, murdered, and left to rot by her abusive boyfriend and his equally horrible brother in an abandoned house caused by the mortgage crisis.
- Freudian Excuse: Noah is a Big Brother Bully to his younger brother Caleb, and their father hits their mother. While Ellie doesn't quite say Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse, her ongoing sympathy with Caleb is presented as partly because of their relationship.
- Gory Discretion Shot: While it's clear that Ellie was raped and murdered, exactly how she died is thankfully never made clear, and the rapes are portrayed on-screen but very discreetly.
- Helpless Observer Protagonist: Since her murder, Ellie has haunted her small town, but can't interact with anyone or anything. Nobody sees her and she repeatedly tries to catch the attention of others, whether it's Caleb and Noah's other victims or her father Alex, but never does.
- Magic Realism: After being raped and murdered, Ellie continues to observe and move around her home, her town, and her murder site, but it isn't clear what she is doing there, she can't communicate with anyone, and she never meets anyone else in her position.
- No Woman's Land: The brothers border on being Chaotic Evil, from what we see of them. While we see them abducting girls they know, or are in relationships with (Ellie is one, and it's possibly not a coincidence that she ends up dying), they also kidnap girls off the street or try to get as many as possible to come into the house with them.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: The only thing that takes Ellie out of the Living Memory category is that she is able to watch the current present (so, her future) unravelling in front of her.
- Privilege Makes You Evil: Although it isn't the only thing that makes them evil, Caleb and Noah exploit their wealth constantly to hurt girls or women.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: A lot of attention is paid to the fact that Noah and Caleb are rapists, although they literally murdered Ellie. Partially justified, as it doesn't seem like they intended to kill her; rather, it escalated from her assault. (Whether this is any sort of excuse is very debatable.)
- Slut-Shaming: Ellie is on the receiving end of it in life (often doled out by her "boyfriend", Caleb), and she and their other victims are degraded like this after her death.
- Tyrannical Town Tycoon: Caleb and Noah's father, who beats his wife yet is wealthy and well-connected within their town as he makes money off the amount of abandoned houses, buying them up after foreclosure.