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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Pretty Girl-13

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: Pretty Girl-13

Pretty Girl-13

Author: Liz Coley
Pages: 352
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Publication Date:March 19, 2013
Source: For review from YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
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.

First Sentence: "You had forgotten how early the sun rises on summer campouts—and how loud the birds sing in the morning."

Holy shit. I knew from the cover that this book would be creepy, but I was not emotionally prepared for this experience. Pretty Girl-13 is one of those books that I'm going to remember for a while, not something that will quickly dissipate from my limited memory banks for story lines. Liz Coley's debut will no doubt shock and offend readers, one of those reads that will be deemed inappropriate for any but the most mature teens, due to the many triggers, most especially rape. If you can handle it, though, Pretty Girl-13 is a riveting tale of recovery from intense psychological and physical trauma.

If you put me in front of a horror movie, I collapse into a shrieking ball of fear. Even though I know what's going to happen, I can't handle it one bit. Horror books, though, really don't scare me. Pretty Girl-13 managed it, however. The horror of Coley's novel is not one of outright violence or things jumping out at you; it's one of the mind. This book messes with your head, makes you imagine situations you've never considered. Angie suddenly appears after three years missing. She has no memory of that period, none at all. That is the most terrifying thing for me: all that time she can't remember, the idea that anything at all could have happened to her and she wouldn't know.

Throughout Pretty Girl-13, I was on the edge of my seat, filled with tension as Angie's story unravels. At no point did my interest wane or did I find the book boring. The revelations come fast and thick, keeping the reader at rapt attention. This is one of those books that I got so into, I disappeared at times, sucked completely into the book, flipping pages without conscious effort.

A couple of the secondary characters in Pretty Girl-13 really shine, and I want to give them a shout out, because the supporting cast generally doesn't get enough love. Kate, Angie's friend, is marvelous. She's totally at one with herself, accepting of her role as a social pariah and determined to make the best of it. Then there are the twins, Ali and Abraim, who date Kate and Angie. Oh my goodness, but they are so cute. Abraim is such a non-standard YA hero in pretty much every way, and I am so thrilled about the way their little romance is handled, though it is probably less than five percent of the story.

Angie herself is a bit trickier. For reasons that will become obvious when you read the book, or if you read the blurb, which I think is a bit spoilery, Angie's character is a bit inconsistent. The narrative style of Pretty Girl-13 does not help with connection to Angie's character. Coley uses third person, which is naturally distancing, and I felt it especially so here. On the other hand, the italicized sections were a well done device. Though I pity Angie and want the best for her, I never got a solid handle on her character, which is understandable, but kept me from engaging that last little bit.

I also feel like some aspects were oversimplified or made more dramatic for plot purposes. Though I can't speak about these directly because I don't want to spoil the story for you, I can say that Angie's recovery takes place to quickly. Her psychologist suggests that full recovery will take years and she's pretty close by the end of a few months. That seems highly unlikely to me, even given some of the extraneous circumstances.

Pretty Girl-13 is a knuckle-biting psychological thriller. I recommend it for mature readers who want a novel that pushes the boundaries of what YA novels can discuss. Readers who prefer lighter fare will want to look elsewhere. This one's intense. Like camping.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote:
"'You don't mince words, do you?' Angie said, a small piece of her innocence in tatters. She didn't want to give him up. He was a link, a bridge across the lost time.
     'I don't have to,' Kate replied. 'I'm already a leper. Gives me the freedom to be honest.'"

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Blogger Amy said...

Fantastic review!! I loved this book and thought it was a great psychological read! Though I found it to be a bit on the predictable side and her recovery was rushed, I still really enjoyed it!

March 29, 2013 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Giselle said...

Haha i'm the same with horror movies and it's funny because they used to be my favorite movies it's all I would watch, but then when I passed my teen years I watched The Grudge and I literally freaked myself out for MONTHS! This one really caught me by surprise too I had no idea what to expect and i didn't even know if it was a contemp or a paranormal but I'm so happy with the direction it went in. That psychology behind it was so fascinating, plus I was horrified by her past but I couldn't keep myself away from reading it. I think if it actually offends readers those people have to open their eyes, this shit happens! Hmm why don't I remember the twins? Seriously, I sat here and wracked my brain and nope... I remember the dude who used to be her boyfriend or crush and he was a real douche. I also agree with how fast she recovered. So happy you enjoyed it, though! YAY!!

March 29, 2013 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Christina Reads YA said...

Nice quote. I'm the same about horror movies. Do you remember Disturbia from years? Anyway, it wasn't even really considered horror, but I had to turn away/use my purse to block the screen because I get freaked out so easily.

The idea of not remembering the past three years seems freaky, but so many books use the idea of amnesia. I suppose that means this one must use it well... I want to know what way Abraim is non-standard. I also want to know how far the boundaries of YA are pushed. But now I'm scared, Christina o.O.

March 29, 2013 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Amber (Books of Amber) said...

I totally agree. I don't get freaked out over horror films all that much, but this book had the hairs on the back of my neck sticking up. It was SO. CREEPY. I've only read a few psychological thrillers, but this made me want to read more of them. So glad you liked it!

I had a bit of an issue with the ending when it came to the babysitting thing. I don't want to spoil anyone, but HELL NAW.

March 29, 2013 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Renae @ Respiring Thoughts said...

Okay, I DON'T remember Angie having a boyfriend/dating anyone. I remember one dude coming up to her, but being a jerk afterward? I seriously feel so out of the loop—where was I during this part of the book, seriously? I don't remember a thing.

And I don't usually get scared during "scary books" either. Words on a page don't do anything for me. Same with this book, though it was crazy fascinating.

March 29, 2013 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Love horror movies! But then again I'm one of 'those' weirdos!

I also feel like some aspects were oversimplified or made more dramatic for plot purposes. = this was my biggest issue with this book, although I had others.

But it definitely was a pager turner!

March 29, 2013 at 4:42 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

(Well I LOVE horror movies. GIVE ME ALL THE SCARIES.)

Anyway, great review. Really spot-on, at least with my experience. Did I like PG-13? Yes. Was it uncomfortable? Yeah. I also keenly felt VERY distanced from Angie, and I, too, thought that there was some dues ex machina (hopefully I spelled that right) going on, which kills me.

But despite all that, it was a good read, so yep, I agree totally with your review. I'm excited to read more from Liz!

Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

March 29, 2013 at 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OKay, you have convinced me. And I'm telling you, if I have nightmares, you will hear from me! Hehe, but seriously, it's difficult to do properly creepy in a book because I'm spoiled by horror movies unless you are Stephen King. The man manages to scare me every time. Anyway, I will definitely pick this one up sooner or later simply because you liked it so much. Oh, I don't know if you watch Jdramas but there's this one called xxholic which is based off a manga (30 mins/episode) and it's fantastically scary. It's been a long while since I was scared like that.

March 30, 2013 at 2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this is a great review! I have this book but I've been putting it off for a bit because many people have said how emotionally intense it is and I need to be mentally prepared before I read something like this. Also, I'm the biggest scaredy cat on the planet so that's another reason I've been waiting. I'm really happy there are some great secondary characters. They don't always get the attention they deserve. The part where her recovery happens quickly will probably bother me A LOT, but oh well. This sounds like a great book.

March 31, 2013 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think you enjoyed this one more than I did, Christina. After reading it I kind of came to the conclusion that I probably shouldn't have tried it out in the first place just because the subject matter bothers me so much. I am not good with child abduction stories. I will never be able to handle books that have a child murder storyline (you'll never catch me reading The Lovely Bones, EVER.)

But I did like the secondary characters of Kate and the twins, especially Abrahim (I probably butchered that spelling) for all the same reasons you did. Some of the characters (and plot threads) I found to be predictable but those two brothers definitely were not and I loved that about them:)

April 1, 2013 at 12:10 PM  

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