For those readers who feel they have outgrown the Young Adult genre, or for those who have never been that tempted by a book, PRETTY GIRL-13 is a game-changer. The shocking story of a young girl’s abduction, abuse and resulting amnesia will keep a reader avidly turning the page. Better yet, author Liz Coley has the reader reconstruct the events as her protagonist slowly uncovers her past. Sound like a good enough hook? You bet.
"While what happened to Angie is unbelievable, Coley’s telling of it aims to be believed...all in all Coley paints an extremely compelling picture of a girl trying to put together her horrific past without falling to pieces."
The last thing Angie remembers is sneaking off from her Girl Scout camping grounds in the early morning to go to the bathroom. Immediately afterwards, she finds herself on her block, staring at her house clutching nothing but a bag of clothes that look like they belong to some stranger. Or at least, that is what she thinks has happened. But for everyone else in Angie’s world, the story is much more complex.
In reality, three years have passed since Angie walked into the bushes that morning. As her family reels from the return of the daughter they believed dead, they try to put together the facts of her case. The problem is, according to Angie, there is no case. Not only does she not know where she’s spent the last three years, she can’t tell them who her abductor was or what happened to her in the interim.
As Angie uncovers her past with the help of a therapist and hypnosis, she realizes that the last three years have literally torn her apart. Under such incredible strain, Angie’s psyche did the only thing it could to protect her --- it splintered. Even though she’s been returned to her family and the life she knows, the various personalities are not yet ready to leave her. Angie must put them to rest before she can truly move on. But it soon becomes clear that they aren’t going to go without a fight.
Many of the issues Coley writes about, including kidnapping, physical abuse, incest and rape, are serious subjects. It’s clear that Coley tries to be sensitive to the subtleties of such a story, rather than just throwing account after terrifying account at the reader. Angie’s homecoming is not all cupcakes and sleepovers. Many of the things she confronts, like restarting her education and re-entering her social world three years late, are dealt with as real difficulties. Angie can’t just easily reintegrate into the world she left behind, the world that moved on without her. Painful too is her father’s strained reaction to her return. Coping with what might have happened to Angie, as well as his obvious guilt about his failure to protect his little girl, have obviously taken a toll on her dad. And he doesn’t deal with the returned Angie with perfect grace.
These uncomfortable situations are actually a relief. They allow the reader to trust the authenticity of the characters and story. Early choices that seem to make no sense (such as why Angie is hiding things if she really wants to find out what happened to her) are in keeping with Coley’s interest in not straying too far from reality. While what happened to Angie is unbelievable, Coley’s telling of it aims to be believed. There are a few coincidences that are a bit too facile, and the final twist can be seen coming a mile away, but all in all Coley paints an extremely compelling picture of a girl trying to put together her horrific past without falling to pieces.
Reviewed by Rebecca Kilberg on April 19, 2013