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.
An Intense Psychological Thriller
What I Loved:
I knew from the cover that this book would be creepy, but I was not emotionally prepared for this experience. Pretty Girl-13 is one of those books that I'm going to remember for a while, not something that will quickly dissipate from my limited memory banks for story lines. Liz Coley's debut will no doubt shock and offend readers, one of those reads that will be deemed inappropriate for any but the most mature teens, due to the many triggers, most especially rape. If you can handle it, though, Pretty Girl-13 is a riveting tale of recovery from intense psychological and physical trauma.
If you put me in front of a horror movie, I collapse into a shrieking ball of fear. Even though I know what's going to happen, I can't handle it one bit. Horror books, though, really don't scare me. Pretty Girl-13 managed it, however. The horror of Coley's novel is not one of outright violence or things jumping out at you; it's one of the mind. This book messes with your head, makes you imagine situations you've never considered. Angie suddenly appears after three years missing. She has no memory of that period, none at all. That is the most terrifying thing for me: all that time she can't remember, the idea that anything at all could have happened to her and she wouldn't know.
Throughout Pretty Girl-13, I was on the edge of my seat, filled with tension as Angie's story unravels. At no point did my interest wane or did I find the book boring. The revelations come fast and thick, keeping the reader at rapt attention. This is one of those books that I got so into, I disappeared at times, sucked completely into the book, flipping pages without conscious effort.
A couple of the secondary characters in Pretty Girl-13 really shine, and I want to give them a shout out, because the supporting cast generally doesn't get enough love. Kate, Angie's friend, is marvelous. She's totally at one with herself, accepting of her role as a social pariah and determined to make the best of it. Then there are the twins, Ali and Abraim, who date Kate and Angie. Oh my goodness, but they are so cute. Abraim is such a non-standard YA hero in pretty much every way, and I am so thrilled about the way their little romance is handled, though it is probably less than five percent of the story.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Angie herself is a bit trickier. For reasons that will become obvious when you read the book, or if you read the blurb, which I think is a bit spoilery, Angie's character is a bit inconsistent. The narrative style of Pretty Girl-13 does not help with connection to Angie's character. Coley uses third person, which is naturally distancing, and I felt it especially so here. On the other hand, the italicized sections were a well done device. Though I pity Angie and want the best for her, I never got a solid handle on her character, which is understandable, but kept me from engaging that last little bit.
I also feel like some aspects were oversimplified or made more dramatic for plot purposes. Though I can't speak about these directly because I don't want to spoil the story for you, I can say that Angie's recovery takes place to quickly. Her psychologist suggests that full recovery will take years and she's pretty close by the end of a few months. That seems highly unlikely to me, even given some of the extraneous circumstances.
The Final Verdict:
Pretty Girl-13 is a knuckle-biting psychological thriller. I recommend it for mature readers who want a novel that pushes the boundaries of what YA novels can discuss. Readers who prefer lighter fare will want to look elsewhere. This one's intense. Like camping. I'll be waiting eagerly to see what Coley has for us next!
Pretty Girl 13 audiobook review
Damn, what a book.
I almost didn't even read this because the cover is a little off-putting. It reminds of the Fear Street covers, and while I enjoyed reading those when I was younger, I don't exactly think of them as great literature. So I'm really glad the internet was flooded with positive reviews and recommendations for it. This is definitely a book worth reading, though if you're sensitive to sexual abuse you might want to avoid it.
I liked the way Coley explored Dissociative Identity Disorder. I'd never heard the term before the book, but I know of similar disorders. It's one thing to understand the definition of a disorder and another entirely to read about it from the point-of-view of the one suffering the disorder (fiction or otherwise). The other personalities within Angie are more like their own selves rather than simply alternate personalities to her own. The Alters saved Angie from a lot of pain, but once she returned home they didn't leave. Instead, they would surface in Angie's day-to-day life. Her body would be taken over and she'd have no knowledge of what had happened. I can't imagine what it would be like not being in charge of my own body.
Angie is an admirable character. Sure, she does some things that looked rather stupid from my point-of-view, but doesn't everyone? I takes a strong person to go through everything she did and end up relatively okay. Plus, I think she was really brave in the way she handled her Alters. She knew that whatever happened to her in all that missing time was something she purposely tried to forget, yet she worked through it anyway. I know there aren't many other options in such a situation, but it would still be difficult to go into it knowing you would remember things that were obviously incredible painful.
I'm really glad I listened to Pretty Girl 13 instead of reading it since the narrator (whose name I've sadly forgotten) did an absolutely fantastic job of making each of Angie's Alters sound unique. It was easier to think of them all as separate people and I think it made it ultimately made it easier to understand Angie.
The Nutshell: I really enjoyed Pretty Girl 13, though it was rather difficult to listen to at times. I found myself wanted to box it up and call it fiction, but the truth is that things like this do happen in our world today. That's probably what makes Coley's book so powerful, though the way she tells the story is a big help.
Angie’s parents have experienced what every parent fears, the abduction of a child with no resolution, no knowledge of what really happened on that fateful day. When Angie suddenly reappears three years later, the repercussions are not what we might imagine, should we find ourselves in such a situation. I would not be the least bit surprised that the child can’t drop back into life as though nothing happened but, in this case, I found her father’s behavior baffling and sometimes her mother’s was also. Yes, her mom has the excuse of pregnancy wreaking havoc on her hormones and moods but her dad’s aloofness is nothing but hurtful and it’s even shameful when he has to choose whose story to believe.
Angie, on the other hand, is an extremely sympathetic character and I understood her desire to have a normal life as well as her rage against her parents. When it began to be apparent that “others” had an active say in what normal meant, I completely bought into the premise. Although multiple personalities are a fairly rare condition, it makes sense for Angie when her alters start to reveal what Angie’s life has been like—and not just for the past three years.
I’ve read other books that feature a kidnapped child, including those who are held for long periods, but this one struck me as particularly appealing. I like Angie very much and applaud her strength, no matter it’s source. Ms. Coley has done a fine job of telling not only Angie’s story but that of the people who love her, including those who will always be a part of her.
Fascinating discussion of mental health
I try hard not to let others’ opinions affect my own, but sometimes it happens. Prior to starting this book, I came across only one review—a 1 star rating from a reviewer I’m not on terribly close terms with, but whose judgment I’m inclined to trust. In light of that, I must confess that I walked into Pretty Girl-13 expecting to either be bored or to outright dislike the book. Certainly, the first few chapters were a little hard for me to read, but everything got so much better afterward.
At first glance, Pretty Girl-13 is quite a bit similar to Elizabeth Smart’s abduction, and as things progress the novel takes on some similarities to Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars. Like Scars, Pretty Girl-13 has an edge-of-your-seat emotional intensity in the middle sections, and features a female protagonist the reader cannot help but advocate for. It would be difficult for most people to truly empathize with Angie’s situation and what’s happening in her life, and I think Liz Coley knew that, because instead of writing Angie as a relatable protagonist, she wrote her as an understandable protagonist. There’s a difference, I feel. Could I ever truly place myself in Angie’s shoes? No I couldn’t, nor do I want to. But I did want to understand her, see things from her side. And that’s what Pretty Girl-13 was—a chance for understanding.
This novel, more or less, has a fairly small scope. All of Angie’s struggles and problems are contained inside her own mind. This is very much a story of acceptance, moving on, and enlightenment. The beginning starts off a bit weakly, but quickly moves forward as the reader is hit was a full-spectrum of intense emotions. The end was fairly relaxed, allowing the reader a chance to see Angie grow into her own person and experience life as it was meant to be lived. Coley certainly had the rise and fall of a good conflict pegged down, which is admirable, considering this isn’t an action-driven piece.
And had Pretty Girl-13 been an action-driven novel, I doubt it would have worked so well. This story would have been impacting enough had it been a simple novel about a girl trying to move on after her abduction, but when you consider the supremely fascinating premise that is Angie’s alternative selves—or “alters”—things get crazy. The very idea of more than one person being housed within a single brain, sharing a body…it’s crazy. Crazy interesting, crazy unique. There were honestly points while I read where I had to remind myself that Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a real thing, because sometimes this seemed like something out of a sci-fi novel. What the human mind can do when it’s put under stress is amazing, really.
I mean, if you want to talk about inner-conflict, Angie wins any competition, hands down. She’s literally fighting her other selves for control of her body. She tries eliminating them from her mind, she tries to “merge” with them, she tries ignoring them and pretending they don’t exist. But through it all, there was never a doubt in my mind as to who Angie really was. Liz Coley’s portrayal of Angie’s growth and development was, in my opinion, spectacular. The final scene was all kinds of painful for me, watching Angie decide how to handle the last decision that resulted from her abduction. I wanted her to make one choice, and she wanted to make one choice, but she talked herself out of that one option and did what was unquestionably the right thing, and I have so much respect for her because of it. Just wow.
Pretty Girl-13 isn’t for anyone looking for a light read. It’s shocking in places; it deals with issues that nobody really wants to think about. But maybe somebody ought to think about them—Liz Coley seems to think so, at least. And when you consider the absolutely fascinating discussion of mental health in this book, as well as an admirable, driven protagonist who seriously took my breath away, we’ve got a winner. I loved this book; I really did.
An emotion inducing read.
As weird as it might sounds, I am always drawn to these types of books. The mind is a fascinating thing, and what goes on up there is always interesting to me. After reading the synopsis, I knew I had to read this and find out what happened to Angie and where she had been for 3 years.
Angie went missing 3 years ago on a camping trip, and when she returns her mind still believes she is 13. Can you imagine this, I certainly can’t. Feeling for her came so easy. The frustration, the not knowing was so hard for Angie. And as the story progresses we learn why she has no memory. Her “alters” have helped her and protected her, but now it time for her to know the truth. It was frightening, yet intriguing at the same time.
Everyone that she remembers has grown up and moved on. Friends who grew up as best friends were longer best friends. Boys that different, but there is one friend that I thought was just amazing. Kate, who while Angie was missing had been labeled as a social outcast, but they were friends before Angie was kidnapped and she stuck with Angie, always listened and helped her. And I have to mention Abraim. He was so patient with Angie, he didn’t really know everything she had been through, but he didn’t care, he just liked her.
The world building was amazing. Being given a little bit of Angie’s past a little at a time, until it all came together was at times excruciating. The emotions I felt ranged from snickering at some of things that Angie said when trying to handle her disorder, to bawling my eyes out. The things this poor girl endure in her life were horrible and hard to read sometimes, but the strength she had was commendable and I wanted to know everything.
The ending was one that I cried my eyes out on, so heart breaking, but how could I have not been proud of Angie for the decision she made. Fans of psychological thrillers will not be disappointed, I know I wasn’t. I can’t really say enough about this, just that I highly recommend reading it. Pretty Girl-13 was gripping, completely emotion inducing and one that will stick with me.