Title: Pretty Girl-13
Author: Liz Coley
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: 19 March 2013
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.
I can't remember exactly why I requested this book for review, it's not the type of story that I normally go for as there are too many things that could possibly go wrong with the telling of it. I was both happily surprised and slightly disappointed when I got to the end of Pretty Girl-13; a well-told story, interesting and easily readable about an incredibly difficult subject, however some parts seemed to easy, too quick, too neatly tied up, for me.
Three years are missing from Angie's life. She disappeared from Girl Scout camp one morning when she was just thirteen and reappeared at her home, now sixteen, with no idea what happened, where she'd been, or who she'd been with. I can easily imagine her fear and confusion - the author paints it so clearly - and I was really expecting an incredibly heart-wrenching journey from here on out. The deeper we got into the story, the deeper that we dug, the more I felt like things were being glossed over. Angie was healing a little - or a lot - too quickly. There were rough patches, there was a 'miracle' medical cure, there was revelations and set-backs, but it always felt slightly rushed.
The personalities that Angie developed were fascinating and interesting to meet and learn. I only wish we'd had more time with them, that Angie'd had more time with them. The problem I had with this is that Dissociative Identity Disorder rarely resolves so quickly, cleanly, or easily. It has made me want to read more on DID, and the integration process but as I was reading it I felt it hard to believe that all her problems were solved in a matter of months.
I mentioned the alters that Angie had developed, but there were a few other secondary characters that stood out just as much to me. Kate is a friend that Angie finds, again, after her return; friends before the abduction Kate is the perfect steady rock of friendship for Angie to have. I loved seeing how absolutely unruffled Kate was in the face of Angie's issues, how determinedly she stood by her side and made her feel more secure, better about herself, and comfortable in what she was experiencing. Kate was a safe harbor for Angie in her healing. As most of this story really took place in Angie's head, with her personalities, there weren't a ton of secondary characters. I did love Dr. Lynn who really exemplifies everything a therapist should be, with her patience and understanding, her compassion and strength. Angie's relationship with her parents was heart-wrenching to me. It was difficult and fraught with land-mines. Each person in the relationship had issues they had to work through - such a traumatic event left none of them unaffected. I was happy with how well rounded the characters were though. Even the two that could have easily fallen into caricature managed to stay just on the other side of it.
Despite what the blurb says I didn't find this to be much of a psychologically mystery, I think nearly anyone could have guessed what happened from pretty much the beginning. Details could vary from each person's imagination, but the essence of it would be the same - and it was. I did read this as a character driven book though. The characters of the alters and Angie finding healing. Which is probably why the lack of time and depth on those things disappointed me. I wanted to read more about who they were - not just what they'd experienced, but who they were as personalities, as people. I really appreciated how the author gave each of the personalities a, very, different voice. How the disorder manifested itself felt very real and absolutely terrifying. Angie's reaction to her personalities also felt real and understandable, even if I didn't agree with all her sentiments - which I most definitely did not.
Pretty Girl-13 was very easy to read with some highly emotional moments, quick and very straightfoward. In spite of the issues I had I greatly enjoyed this book. The voice was easy to ready, letting me fly through it in a couple of hours, and the story was compelling. I wish it had a bit more depth, and would have liked some more mystery, but overall I'm glad I read it and will be looking for more from Liz Coley.
This all makes it hard to rate. On the one hand I enjoyed it, but on the other I was hoping for so much more.