A novel written by Elizabeth Scott. Surprisingly has nothing to do with zombies or ghosts, despite what the title may have you think.
The book is narrated by Alice, a 15-year-old girl who lives with a man named Ray, in a place called Shady Pines Apartments. The preceding statement might seem innocuous enough, without including such minor details as Ray's repeated sexual assault, starvation and beatings of Alice.
It turns out that Ray is not Alice's father, as it would seem to anyone looking in from the outside, but a pedophile who took her away from her family when she was only 10.
As the book progresses, Alice finds that Ray would like to have a family, another little girl for him to "love". It turns out that the task of finding this girl is up to Alice. Most of the book follows Alice's attempts to find a way to get Ray to focus on this new girl and get back home to her family.
Character tropes go on the Characters page.
This book provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Adults definitely notice something off with Alice, but not anything off with Ray, and they just chalk up Alice's oddities to her having problems.
- Alice Allusion: Numerous. Alice is called Alice, after all, and there are many references to the story itself.
- All Men Are Perverts: The two significant male characters, Ray and Jake, are a child-raping murderer (Ray) and a drugged up horny teenager (Jake), but this also seems to be an extension of Alice's Unreliable Narrator status and her natural distrust of others.
- Ambiguous Ending: The final chapter is extremely ambiguous about whether Alice/Kyla dies from the gunshot or is actually free from Ray, but given how severe her injuries are, it seems more likely to be the former.
- Churchgoing Villain: Ray, like his mother before him.
- Crapsaccharine World: The apartment block. Alice notes that it is a nice Stepford Suburbia town, but in addition to Alice and Ray living there, there seems to be a lot of bullying and domestic abuse, as well as generally turning a blind eye to what seems wrong.
- Dangerous 16th Birthday: Invoked literally in-universe. Ray killed the previous Alice when she turned fifteen, but this Alice is already fifteen and thus naturally feels like she's on borrowed time. We never find out for sure if she lived to her sixteenth birthday.
- Denied Food as Punishment: Played with. Alice lives in a state of constant starvation as Ray is obsessed with her not getting above 100 pounds. He'll also punish her with withdrawing food, but it's implied that denying food is more his punishment for growing up.
- Downer Ending: Can be interpreted this way. Alice gets shot along with Ray, and it's implied she dies because of it. On the plus side, though, Alice is finally freed from Ray.
- Another plus is that Ray himself is killed. Even better, Alice- or rather, Kyla- saved another little girl from suffering the same horrible fate she did. Given that Ray would have definitely kept, uh, acquiring little girls to join his "family," the world can rejoice that he bit the bullet. So it can also be interpreted as a Bittersweet Ending.
- Driven to Suicide: The previous Alice tried to commit suicide with a razor blade, but Ray caught her. This is why he doesn't let Alice shave.
- Esoteric Happy Ending: If the ambiguous epilogue is interpreted as Alice/Kyla's death, she seems happy just to be free and out of suffering, plus Ray is probably dead - but it's not as much of a happy ending as being reunited with her family would be.
- Evil Feels Good: Ray, as a sadist, feels like this, but Alice also comes to realise that she agrees with him after terrifying Jake during one of their car hookups.
- First Period Panic: Alice understandably has this reaction because Ray will react very, very badly, as he did in the past.
- First-Person Smartass: Alice has her moments.
- Freudian Excuse: Ray's mother did to him what he does to Alice.
- The Fundamentalist: Ray's mother seems to have been like this.
- No Name Given/Known Only by Their Nickname: Up until the last few pages, Alice is only known by the name Ray gave her (Alice), and it is not until the end that we learn that her real name is Kyla Davis.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: A very horrifying and sickening example. Because Ray is a pedophile, he isn't happy about Alice being on the cusp of puberty. To combat this, he starves her, robbing Alice's body of the nutrients it needs to develop. Thanks to this, Alice spends the entire novel in a perpetual state of hunger and obsesses about food. Ray also forces her to wax all of the hair off her body and shoves her into clothing that is meant for girls half her age.
- No Periods, Period: Played with. Alice has her period and Ray freaks out, going to great lengths to make it stop, and puts her on birth control. Although Alice notes that the pill isn't supposed to work like this, it stops her period altogether, probably because she's so malnourished.
- Meaningful Rename: Ray does this to both his victim, who are both called "Alice". It shakes the second Alice even more when she realises that Ray plans to call his new victim Annabel which means that he might not intend on killing her after all.
- Princess Phase: Ray thinks that all little girls should like princesses, and Alice's bedroom is decorated like this.
- Shoot the Hostage Taker: Jake attempts this on Ray at the end in the park where he plans to kidnap Lucy, but the bullet goes through him so, while it kills him, it also turns into a Shoot the Hostage situation, killing Alice too.
- Unreliable Narrator: Alice is this without realising she is, as she automatically interprets the world as an evil, cynical place where Ray is everywhere. Ray is a straighter example, and it's not clear how much he makes up to terrorise Alice.