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.