Author: Liz Coley
Genre: YA contemporary, crime, mystery, thriller
Publication Date: March 19, 2013
Source: Publisher provided ARC/Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: Reminiscent of the Elizabeth Smart case, Pretty Girl-13 is a disturbing and powerful psychological mystery about a girl who must piece together the story of her kidnapping and captivity.
Angie Chapman was thirteen years old when she ventured into the woods alone on a Girl Scouts camping trip. Now she’s returned home…only to find that it’s three years later and she’s sixteen-or at least that’s what everyone tells her.
What happened to the past three years of her life?
Angie doesn’t know.
But there are people who do—people who could tell Angie every detail of her forgotten time, if only they weren’t locked inside her mind. With a tremendous amount of courage, Angie embarks on a journey to discover the fragments of her personality, otherwise known as her “alters.” As she unearths more and more about her past, she discovers a terrifying secret and must decide: When you remember things you wish you could forget, do you destroy the parts of yourself that are responsible?
☆: 4.5/5 stars – definitely one of the most powerful contemporary YA books of the year!
Review: Wow. I wasn’t expecting any of this but “Pretty Girl-13” is one firecracker of a book. I went into this one totally blind, and I’m so glad I did. “Pretty Girl-13”, while saying it has echoes of the Elizabeth Smart case, more echoes Jaycee Dugard’s case more than anything else. It will haunt you after you’ve finished the last page. If you’re looking for a good tough stuff YA contemporary mixed with lots of mystery book this year, make it “Pretty Girl-13”.
This is not an easy book to read. Let me make that clear. It’s gritty, it’s horrifying, and it’s incredibly sad. If you’re looking for a light, fluffy book, you should look elsewhere. However, that being said, it’s not without hope. Hope of healing, more specifically, and of overcoming a significant trauma. This is an important book, and it deals with more than just abduction, but also childhood abuse. It doesn’t couch it in depression, and the way Coley decided to tell the story is one of the more original ways of doing it when it comes to issues like this within YA contemporary. So my hat’s off to her on that bit.
Mostly, this book is flawless when it comes to the technical areas. So I won’t focus on them too much. The world is immediate when you start the first page, as are the characters. The world and the characters are built brilliantly, and the sensory imagery is so intense that sometimes I had to put the book down and walk away for a little bit. But it’s also so unputdownable (I hate using that word, but it’s completely accurate here) that I managed to more or less read it in one sitting. One. That’s rare for me, and that just testifies to Coley’s tense and horribly wonderful prose.
I love how she included the whole brainmapping thing when it came to DID (I remember when the UCLA brainmapping center had just opened about a decade ago, so that made me feel kinda fuzzy and warm) – I feel like she really did her research in that area, and the science-y stuff was pretty spot on. DID (formerly known as schizophrenia) is not an easy disease to represent or explore in any kind of fiction, regardless if it’s YA or Adult, but I do think that Coley did a really good job of examining that here.
However. I do feel like she exaggerated the healing rate (if it can be called that?) of the disease – mostly, as we know it (and are exploring it with things like brainmapping and gene-targeted therapies), is still one that is chronic, and one that never fully goes away. Complete “integration” may never be achieved by most patients, and I feel like while I understand why Coley did what she did for the sake of creating a story, it also felt very much like it was leading the audience on a bit when it came to the reality of DID. It’s not something that goes away easily, and certainly not in the timeframe we were given within the book.
Otherwise? I think this is a book that’s definitely going to help some YA readers, and educate the rest. While not perfect, I still consider it (with its tight writing and wonderful storytelling) to be one of the best of 2013 so far. “Pretty Girl-13” is out March 19, 2013 from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out then!