by Liz Coley
March 19, 2013
Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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?
Liz Coley's alarming and fascinating psychological mystery is a disturbing-and ultimately empowering-page-turner about accepting our whole selves, and the healing power of courage, hope, and love. (Goodreads Summary.)
My Take On It
In a nutshell, Pretty Girl-13 is the story of Angie, who at 13 was abducted while camping, held in captivity, and then managed to escape and return home three years later. The problem is Angie doesn't realize she's been gone. In her mind, not a day has passed since her Girl Scout camping trip, she goes out early one morning to use the bathroom in the woods and the next thing she remembers is limping onto her street as she makes her way home.
Angie soon discovers that she is now sixteen, the last three years of her life are completely blank, and that during that time, a time that she thankfully cannot remember, she was physically and sexually abused and restrained. Most startling, Angie has developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (or Multiple Personality Disorder.) Her mind has fractured, separated itself into five different persona's, a coping mechanism to help her withstand years of abuse.
Guys, this is a dark book. I love psychological thrillers but I have to say, the pairing of an child abduction story with split personalities, who were brought into being to protect that child from the horrible things happening to her, was very hard for me to read. Multiple Personality Disorder is a fascinating subject but as Angie's altars began to open up, allowing her to remember the terrible things her mind had repressed, I found myself struggling to read it. Terrible, dark, twisted stuff, you guys.
Struggles aside I pushed on, and though the psychological aspects were interesting and informative, I had some issues with the rest of the book. I never felt very connected to any of the characters involved, including Angie. I felt sorry for her, I felt angry about what happened to her, but I never felt that connection. The book is told in 3rd person, which I sometimes have a hard time with (I prefer 1st person) so perhaps that was some of it. Reading the epistolary accounts of her altars was more interesting and emotional, though they were the ones relaying firsthand accounts of what took place during her captivity.
I also had some issues with Angie's homecoming and assimilation back into the real world. Her relationship with her parents is strained, which is understandable, but the reunion with her friends felt off. Once the initial "You're back! What happened?" questions were asked and answered, they all sort of forgot about her abduction and that Angie had been gone for three years experiencing horribly traumatic things. I don't know, maybe it could play out like that in real life, but it felt off to me.
Along with the drama of the abduction, looking for the perpetrator, and trying to assimilate all her persona's into one mind, there was some typical high school drama and that just felt weird too. It felt unnecessary and distracting from the real issues at hand.
There are a few twists in the story, but much of it I figured out in advance. And some of them felt a bit over the top.
So, I am a bit torn here. I liked the subject, even though it was disturbing and made me uncomfortable. I liked that it demonstrated just what a nightmarish place the human mind can be. And I thought it was cool to see a YA book taking this on. But my lack of emotional involvement with the characters and unnecessary, distracting subplots took away from my overall enjoyment of the book. I think that some readers will not have the issues I had, and will probably really love the way this book is executed, but unfortunately it just didn't work for me.
Find author Liz Coley here: website/ goodreads/ facebook /twitter
*UPDATE: The author provided me with a link to the book trailer! Thank you Ms. Coley and Angeline, the star of the trailer:)
Now that is a creepy trailer!
Read more reviews of Pretty Girl- 13:
The Book Geek
The Elliot Review
The Social Potato