Review: Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

March 11, 2013 4 - 4.5 Stars, Abuse, Get Ready To Cry, Liz Coley, Thriller 6 ★★★★

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on March 19, 2013
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 344
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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.

Here are a few of the emotions that I experienced while reading Pretty Girl-13:

  • Rage
  • Despair
  • Terror
  • Hopelessness
The ending is lighter, relatively speaking, but you must go through hell with Angie to get there.When I was around 7 or 8, I read a People magazine story about Patty Hearst.  It was awful and scary, and I remember asking my mother, “What is rape?” and her reply was an uncomfortable laugh.  She didn’t answer my question, so I knew it had to be terrible.Since then, there have been other stories of girls and young women kidnapped, raped, and held captive.  The most notable recent cases, of course, are Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard.  We know these women’s names because they eventually escaped or were rescued, but I wonder how many of the girls who disappear every year are not dead, but are alive and captive in some unimaginably horrible dungeon.  Elizabeth and Jaycee are undoubtedly grateful to be alive today, but I’m sure there were moments during their captivity when they wondered if death would be preferable.

Pretty Girl-13 hooked me from the start.  A 16 year-old girl wanders out of the woods and finds her way home.  In her mind, she is still 13, the age at which she was kidnapped.  The intervening years are a blank.  Angie’s parents react to her miraculous return very differently; her mother smothers her with love, but her father, wracked with guilt over his perceived failure to protect his little girl, can barely make eye contact with her.  I wanted to throttle him.

Now, the synopsis doesn’t mention the following aspect of Angie’s psychological condition, but it’s made apparent early on, and I don’t consider it a spoiler.  But if you are sensitive to any kind of spoiler, you may want to stop reading now…

Angie’s parents wisely send her to therapy where it’s quickly determined that she’s suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID) aka multiple personality disorder.  These personalities allowed Angie to survive the trauma of her captivity and rape, but she’s left feeling like just one small piece of a  person, and her therapist recommends a radical procedure to eradicate the other personalities.

The story focuses very heavily on DID, and I have no idea how much of what I read was fact versus fiction.  I was hoping for some clarification in the acknowledgements, but it was not included in the e-version of the ARC that I read.  (Hopefully it will be included in the finished version.)  It’s a fascinating subject, but Angie’s recovery seemed extraordinarily quick considering the trauma she suffered, and this is where a note from the author would have helped.

There’s a big surprise at the end that was telegraphed early on, but I didn’t put all of the pieces together.  I suspect readers will react very differently to it.  After recovering from my initial shock, I found Angie’s reaction to the situation increasingly difficult to believe.  Overall, however, Liz Coley tackled this book and its unpleasant subject matter with compassion and tenderness, and I give credit to any book that makes me such strong emotions as Pretty Girl-13 did.

Final note – this book may be very upsetting to victims of sexual abuse, and in particular, childhood sexual abuse.  While the rape and molestation depictions are not explicit, they are still quite awful to read.

For a similar theme, check out the book, Room.

Review posted at Goodreads


6 Responses to “Review: Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley”

  1. Jelly

    Wow this sounds like a really dark book. Now I’ll have to think about it before I read it. On a side note, excellent review!

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