Review: Pretty Girl-13

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley
Release Date ~ March 19, 2013
Katherine Tegan Books ~ HarperCollins
ISBN13: 9780062127372
Hardcover purchased

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

I've been interested in crime stories since I was a kid (too much Law & Order!) and I've been on a Criminal Minds kick recently so it was unsurprising when I picked up Pretty Girl-13 after I finished writing my last exam and couldn't put it down until I was finished.

As hard as these types of stories can be to read, I love to read them because I find they really challenge me both as a reader and as a person. It forces you to empathize (or at least sympathize) with a character, as you experience the same struggles they do in the book. But I had a couple issues with Pretty Girl-13 by the time I finished it.

  1. An inside look at life post-abduction:

    What happens to Angie is horrific, but I appreciated learning about it from her perspective rather than anyone else's. I tend to read about these horrific events objectively, but I think it's equally important to consider what happens after a girl who's been missing for 3 years comes back home... from her perspective. Because while it's happy on one hand, it's also extraordinarily difficult on the other. She comes back into her life, but everything has changed so much it's nearly unrecognizable.
  2. The story of a girl with exceptional strength:

    Pretty Girl-13 is truly a testament to the strength possessed by those who undergo such horrific circumstances. It's incredible to see the way Angie did her best to protect herself, and the lengths she'll go to protect others as well.
  3. Mysteries & plot twists:

    The story in this book is different because Angie doesn't remember the past 3 years of her life - any of the time she spent abducted and held captive. So the difficulty for her is to try and put together exactly what happened to her and if she even wants to remember. There are plenty of surprises and secrets to be uncovered throughout it all which makes for a thrilling read. 
But while Pretty Girl-13 started off so well, I didn't feel like it maximized the potential it had. If anything, it seemed to work against the overall message of the story. What happens to Angie is horrific and positively terrible. But by the end, it felt like she was just having every possible unspeakable thing thrown at her to make it as shocking as possible. Many of the twists didn't seem to serve the overall purpose of the story, but just for shock value. I know that stories like this aren't entirely imagined and they really do happen in real life. But some of these weren't tied in to the story well enough and really felt gratuitous. 

And when I finished, I had to think over many aspects of the book. And I realized how many plot holes there were - there are some obvious secrets that should have been uncovered earlier on in the story, because others were in a perfect position to discover it and failed to, even when it would have been obvious to them. (I don't want to spoil anything, so I'm forcing myself to be vague.) There were times when I didn't find Angie's responses to be plausible either, because of how easily she is able to move on after recalling various events that happened in her life. 

So overall, while I liked the book and its message, it felt lacking in retrospect when I had really hoped for more and it seemed like I could expect that much of Pretty Girl-13. 


Andrea @ Cozy Up said...

I've seen a lot of reviews on this book and I completely understand some of the issues you had, it felt like there was a lot going on and that too much was thrown at Angie. It's like everything that could happen to her did. I'm glad you still enjoyed it though.

Maji Bookshelf said...

oh no.. reading the beginning of your review I got so pumped up for it! But then with the whole too many twists and secrets being unraveled towards the end.. I am not sure sure right now.

Great review though, I am a BIG The Mentalist fan so I LOVE crime stories.

Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

Rachelia said...

I absolutely agree about everything you said in your review Brenna! It was good, but a bit gratuitous and there were some big plot holes. I think it would have been amazing if the author had addressed some of the issues you pointed out!

I like how you said these types of books challenge you as a reader and a person -- so true!

ChristasBooks said...

definitely felt myself nodding along with everything you said here. When I was reading this book I was absolutely obsessed with finding out what happened but after I finished and stopped to think about it all I realized how many holes there were and some of the twists were just a little too much for me.

Molli Moran said...

Really fair review, Brenna! This is definitely one of those that, the more you think about it, the more it gels in your mind and you can see it clearly. I definitely think some things were added just for shock value, especially the last twist at the end. And Angie's journey/healing wasn't really done properly, I don't think. I did like this one, but I didn't love it.

Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

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