by Liz Coley
Original Publishing Date: March 19, 2013
Length: 344 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Obtained Via: Traded
Format Read In: ARC
View at the Traffic light:
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.
Fun fact: I am afraid of flying, which is what I was doing when I read Pretty Girl-13. I’m not so much afraid of the plane crashing–I’m more afraid of the fact that planes are small and I get claustrophobic and there’s so many people and nowhere to go. It terrifies me.
You know what else terrifies me? The idea that I could have repressed memories. This has been one of my biggest fears since I was 13 years old. The idea that maybe something has happened that made me subconscious lock everything off in that part of my mind. Perhaps this is a strange fear–perhaps others don’t have this–but this is coming from the girl who, when she was eight, decided her biggest fear was that she’d wake up one morning and realize her entire life up to this point had been a dream and she’d have to start all over again. My biggest fears have always been on the psychological side, which is why Pretty Girl-13 was so engrossing to me. I guess there’s nothing like getting over one of your fears like reading about another one.
Pretty Girl-13 is horrifying in a very subtle way, because it doesn’t scream at you, “Look at me and be terrified!”. There are no monsters, no ghosts, only what humanity is capable of and a single human mind. And yet, at the same time, it never ventured into territory of shocking merely for the sake of shocking. What I mean by that is while the details of Angie’s abduction are awful, they are not graphic nor played up anymore than the plot demands. I have trouble reading books like this sometimes, and while I was disturb, I never felt like I was being manipulated. I never felt like point of the book was to make me feel disturbed, it was just a side effect. At least for me, I’m okay with that. Also, it should be said that I get disturbed more easily than others, so for others this book might not be as disturbing and hard as it was for me.
Despite the fact Pretty Girl-13 was hard to swallow at times, it was absolutely worth it. Seeing Angie developed to realize her alters existed, that they were real, and that she had to deal with to actually dealing with them was a worthwhile journey. I loved how Coley’s writing style managed to reflect Angie’s mental state at any given time.
I am not a psychiatrist, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the things portrayed in Pretty Girl-13, but at the same time. . . I’m not sure it matters to me too much in this case. I mean, I like accuracy in my books. But this book, all the things that are portrayed, are less important to me than Coley’s examination of human nature through Angie. Despite what she goes through, Angie survives. She is changed, and she’ll never be the same, but she survives. It’s not a survival that ends completely happy, free of fear or sorrow, but it happens anyway. Angie’s alters are interesting, because they take on personalities so completely different to Angie’s own. Her “fragments” of herself residing within her might be what compels the story forward, but at heart, it’s still Angie’s story. She’s the character that Coley made me care about, the character I wanted to be all right. Pretty Girl-13 was a tough read for sure, but it was compelling because of Angie. Out of all the character-driven stories I’ve read this year, Pretty Girl-13 was one of the best.
Final Impression: Angie’s story is interesting, bizarre, and heart-breaking. It’s not a story I necessarily wanted to become engrossed in, but I think I came out the other side the better for it. The things that Coley says about human nature through Pretty Girl-13 and through Angie are worth talking about. It’s worth discussing. And it’s not an easy discussion, but it’s fascinating and perhaps, necessary. It’s a story that works so well precisely because of the way it revolves around human nature and the human mind. 5/5 stars.