Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

Pretty Girl-13
by Liz Coley
Release Date: March 19th, 2013
2013 Katherine Tegen Books
Ebook Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062127372
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

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?

My Thoughts
Pretty Girl-13 is one of those novels about which I had some major conflicting emotions when I was finished.  First of all, it was the story of a girl dealing with some pretty traumatic events in her life, an examination of what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder, now called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), but it was also the story of what happened to Angie in the three years she disappeared without a trace during a camping trip.  My biggest problem with this novel is how she seemed to just walk back into her life as if nothing had happened in the previous three years and just took up her life as normally as possible.  Is that even possible?

What I liked:  I have to admit that I found the story to be engaging and the writing style was captivating.  I did stay up late to finish this novel so I have to give credit where it is due and I did enjoy the story very much.  Reading about the various personalities was entertaining and I did enjoy the different ways in which the personalities came 'out', and the predicaments in which Angie found herself were sometimes entertaining (ie; coming to school with a see-through white shirt with no bra was kind of funny even if she didn't know about it until afterwards).  But as a teacher, she would have been stopped right away and told to put a sweater on to avoid embarrassment as well as to avoid breaking the dress code.  It also presented a lot of questions that I am currently discussing with my son who is almost finished the novel about abuse and speaking to strangers and what to do if...situations.  It's been interesting seeing it through his eyes rather than through an adult's. 

It was interesting to see how Angie dealt with the normalcy of her life after dealing with her traumatic events, and I was glad it wasn't a police procedural novel, but more about Angie.  It was one of the things I definitely liked about this novel.

What bothered me:  While I found Angie's situation to be quite engaging and interesting, there were many problems with her therapy and the investigation that bothered me.  Everything seemed to be too easily resolved while DID can take years to investigate and diagnose.  Even today it is quite controversial, as DID is often discovered during psychoanalysis using hypnosis, leading professionals to question whether patients are being led to believe they have DID.  And Angie was diagnosed in her very first therapy session with Dr. Grant!  I think a novel that showed the difficulty of DID would have been better, and more interesting to read, even if the ending was less succint and less 'happy', but it would have been far more realistic.  Happy endings are for Disney movies, not for real life.

I also found the novel to be quite predictable, but to be fair, my son found it to be full of twists and to be shocking.  The amount of crime and mystery novels I have read compared to him is exceptionally high, so perhaps I have a big advantage on him and I could predict the big twists in this novel.  It didn't make it any less enjoyable, but there were some things that didn't sit right in my mind. Angie went for a doctor examination as soon as she walked through the door, and some of the 'shocks' and 'twists' would have been discovered immediately upon her examination.  I even double-checked with a friend who is a doctor to be sure and she confirmed my suspicions.  I don't want to give it away, but it definitely bothered me. I also had a hard time believing the press didn't catch on to Angie's return for almost two months.  With all of the students knowing about it, you'd think someone would have alerted the press, but two months?  This I had a hard time swallowing.

Pretty Girl-13 is a disturbing story of a girl dealing with the aftermath of abduction and abuse.  I wish the author had spent more time dealing with Angie's actual situation as it made me feel detached from her somewhat and not as empathetic as I could have been from her plight.  Maybe too much focus on the DID?  I also found the resolution to be too pat as even the author acknowledged that it takes years to treat somebody for DID and not the time frame that was used in her novel.  I did however, find the story to be engaging and it did hold my attention as the author's writing style is quite flowing and easy to read. Even though it does contain a number disturbing references to rape and abuse, there are no graphic descriptions and could be read by all YA readers.  Just be prepared to field those questions that I have been fielding and to throw in some 'mommy-isms' at the same time such as "Don't talk to strangers..." and "If any does anything inappropriate..."