Book Review: Pretty Girl-13

pretty girl 13I decided to give up the slightly lighter and fluffier YA novels and head into darker territory with this one. I’ve always been (morbidly?) fascinated by these stories of kidnapped children found years later. It’s a weird fascination with the unknown, the tragic and the damaged – a ‘lost’ time. Perhaps I should have kept my black hair and emo fringe, it would have suited my weird obsessions.

Angie was thirteen years old when she ventured into the woods by herself on a scout camping trip and disappeared. Three years later she re-appears, walking home through her suburb towards her house – with no idea that time has passed, what happened in the missing years or how she got from the woods to her house. Slowly, she’s forced to accept that she’s lost three years of her life – and that other personalities took over during this time. As Angie fights with what to remember and what to let go, we’re taken on her harrowing journey through the past and present.

I really, really liked the idea of this book. Missing girl returns, can’t remember her past, but slowly opens up about (and to) the dark secrets she’s keeping from herself. I think Liz Coley handled the disappeared time in a clever way – using alternate personalities (referred to as ‘alters’) for the missing time. And it’s not an easy return by any means – for her, her family or her friends. It’s troubling and harrowing and very believable.

However, and this is a big however for me, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the way she represents dissociative personality disorder (which is responsible for her alters). I’m sure she did her research, but the disorder comes off as being a ‘bad’ thing, it comes off as Angie being ‘crazy’. This mental illness is made to feel almost bad or wrong in Liz’s framing of it, which I don’t think is helpful or necessary, especially in a YA novel. It almost felt like shaming at some points. It also doesn’t feel entirely holistic, her disorder is created in broad strokes rather than finer detail.

It’s not a light read and definitely not to be tackled if any of the subject matter could be triggers for you (abuse, kidnapping, rape). It’s dark, sad and definitely twisted. Venture in only if you’ve got a big glass of wine and a box of tissues on hand.

For more on my reading list, check out my Goodreads profile.

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