Title: Pretty Girl-13
Author: Liz Coley
Releases: March 19, 2013
Format & Source: eBook (Edelweiss)
Genre(s): YA, mystery, thriller
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.
— Cover Critique —
I think the cover gives a good feel for the book – creepy, dark, disturbing, gritty. The concept of a girl in a doorway or cabin makes more sense as you read on in the book. I also like the font they used!
— Expectations —
Not going to lie – the main reason I downloaded this was that I kept hearing good things on Twitter about this book. I hadn’t read many reviews, but I love a good psychological thriller/mystery so when I saw it was available for download on Edelweiss, I went ahead and put it on my ereader.
— Review —
I’m so conflicted y’all — I’ve never had this happen before, but I agree both with the 1 star ratings (mostly Kelly’s) aaaand the 4-5 star ratings of this book. How the heck does this happen?!? I’m going to try and explain my thoughts, but it’s also hard to do so with this type of book and not spoil things. But, here it goes…
Pretty Girl-13 is Angie, a thirteen year old girl who is kidnapped while on a Girl Scout camping trip in the woods. Three years later, she shows up on her street, and is reunited with her parents. Thing is, she doesn’t remember anything at first and believes she is still thirteen! Turns out that Angie has dissociative identity disorder (DID), or alter personas that were created to help Angie survive her ordeal. In order to find out what has happened in the last three years and to take control of her own life, Angie, with the help of a therapist, has to tap into these personas, which stirs up many disturbing memories.
OK, first of all, this book was enthralling, albeit, disturbing. I read it all in one day, and when I had to go out to do some grocery shopping I really didn’t want to because it meant I had to put the book down. As soon as I got back, I picked it right up again. The story’s structure — that of hearing from both Angie and her alters, and learning what happened to her piece by piece — really worked for me, and made the story even more fascinating. While I am going to talk about the problems I had with Pretty Girl-13, the fact that it held my attention for 4+ hours counts for a lot in my books.
Yet, as much as I thought the story structure worked and the book was well paced, I had a lot of problems with this book. As Kelly points out in her review, there is a LOT going on, and at times it does seem like a mess of a storyline. Like, what else could POSSIBLY have been thrown at Angie?! By the end, it is emotionally exhausting because Angie has been through almost a ridiculous amount of crap. I’m not denying that these things can happen, as we have seen in the past that they can, but it did seem overwhelming. The end had me kind of eye-rolling with one incident, but I was still enthralled with the story. The upside to the storyline that had a million different elements is that I think Liz Coley did present an empowering narrative regarding mental health. HORRIFIC things happened to Angie, that she and her alters had to endure for years, and at a young age at that. It would be completely understandable for Angie to never be able to get over those years of her life. Yet, Angie is very resilient. **Somewhat spoiler ahead!** She works hard with mental health professionals to deal with her DID and to feel happy and whole again. It’s a constant battle, but she works at it. I think that was a very positive message to a dark and disturbing story.
The major issue I had is in regards to how Angie’s parents and friends reacted upon her return. I understand that everyone reacts differently in times of grief, etc. but their reactions just struck me as so out of place that it really bothered me. Angie’s parents often left her on her own (sometimes out of necessity… but still, she is having a bit of a hard time adjusting… and she was kidnapped! You’d think they’d want someone watching her?), and after learning of her DID when she mentioned that she must have blacked out or zoned out… for 8 hours, no one said anything!! They just didn’t seem wholly attentive to Angie at times. As for her friends, well let me say that I was dumbfounded at their reactions, except for Kate’s, who I felt reacted the most realistically (asking questions, being worried, trying to offer support). Livvie and Greg’s reactions were appalling in my opinion. It was very “Where were you? Oh you don’t know? That is soooooo cool”. I believe Greg actually said “Well, you don’t look bad/hurt, so it can’t have been that bad”. Dude, she’s been gone three years, and you can pretty much deduce that she was held against her will! Then they crack jokes about her being gone and possibly being held! It didn’t bother me when Angie did this, or even later, when Kate did, because Angie recognized that she needed to use humour to deal with what happened, but this is Livvie and Greg’s reaction immediately upon reuniting with Angie. As time goes on, these characters become more unlikeable for various reasons, but these reactions just seemed so unrealistic and disturbing that it really bothered me while reading.
Lastly, and this one may be a bit spoiler-y, so proceed to the final paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled at all. OK, so Angie has an alter persona that was originally identified, with help from her therapist, as the one known as Little Wife. When Little Wife shares her story, she explains that she took over for one of the other alters at night, so that she and she alone endured the sexual abuse at the hands of their kidnapper. One of the other alters referred to her as the Slut instead of Little Wife. After reading Little Wife’s story, Angie says out loud a thank you for what she did for her and the other personas. However, from then on, Little Wife is referred to as Slut for no apparent reason. I understand the other alter calling her Slut as there was animosity between some of the alters, however, she was literally being sexually assaulted!!! It’s not like she was promiscuous or anything (not that a woman who enjoys sex should be called a slut anyways)! So I could sort of understand the other alter referring to Little Wife as Slut because of animosity and history, etc. BUT THEN one of her freaking doctors refers to the alter as “Slut… oh I mean the one called Little Wife”. How is that acceptable in any way?!?!
*sigh* So as you can see, this was a difficult review to write because of such conflicting emotions. On one hand, I really loved the book for the interesting storyline regarding DID, the format the book took, and a fairly empowering message regarding mental health. However, I really disliked, and in some cases, hated, other aspects of the book, and many things just didn’t seem to make sense. But the fact that I practically inhaled this book in a few hours does count a lot for me. I think that if you aren’t a picky reader like I am that you will definitely love this book more than I did. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book, and in fact, did so already to my best friend! I think a lot of the issues I had may have been more personal preferences of what I like/dislike in a book. So, if you are looking for an enthralling book that is a psychological mystery, I would definitely recommend Pretty Girl-13, because even despite the issues I had, I still couldn’t put it down! As for a rating… I’ve really wavered between a 3.5 and a 4. I think because of the issues I personally had with it, I have to give it a 3.5, although I could also have given it a 4 just based on pure read-ability. I just didn’t want to give off the wrong impression if people only see a 4 star rating, and feel that a 3.5 conveys that I did like it, but it had some issues.
* I received an electronic version of the book off of Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read Pretty Girl-13? What did you think? What are your favourite psychological thrillers/mysteries? Do you know of any other books that feature DID?