21 Following


missing: presumed reading

Currently reading

Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Pretty Girl-13 - Liz Coley **This review contains spoilers, please read at your own risk**I’ll keep this brief because I only have so much time I’m willing to dedicate to talking about books I didn’t particularly like and YOLO.Despite the hook of the premise and strong, if disorienting, opening - Pretty Girl 13 is an uncomfortable (and I don’t meant that in a compelling, interesting way), mess of a novel. It relies heavily on the protagonist’s Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and her ordeal being kidnapped, repeatedly raped and held captive for three years, along with childhood sexual abuse without adequately addressing any of it. There’s tension and reasonably compelling characters, but the sloppy and problematic handling of both mental illness and the investigation surrounding Angela’s disappearance let the novel down, not to mention some completely absurd plot developments.While the author admits that part of Angela’s “treatment” currently exists in theory only (the “deletion” of alters, rather than therapy to reintegrate them), the fact that it was used to truncate the story really bothered me. Two of Angela’s alters are conveniently erased using this experimental process when they are no longer required in the plot, which feels incredibly disrespectful to me. (I know, I know, ”It’s fiction! Who cares!?” Well, I care.) Coley also attempts to incorporate more traditional (albeit abbreviated) methods of treatment as part of Angela’s recovery, but it’s all very expedient and neat, as if the disorder is only useful so long as it keeps propelling the plot. The other big problem I had with this novel is the ridiculously unrealistic manner in which media coverage of Angela’s reappearance is completely suppressed and / or avoided (until it’s necessary to up the ante in the plot, of course), and the similarly bizarre reactions of the other characters. Despite the fact that Angela’s return to school prompts a horde of fascinated hangers-on and rubberneckers, somehow, not a single whiff of the amnesiac girl who returns after a three-year absence reaches the headlines. Call me jaded but in the age of social media and means of communication that now inform faster than traditional news outlets, this novel apparently believes its readers are idiots. Nor is there any real nuance in the handling of how Angela’s peers process her return and her DID. Confusion, questions, ignorance, misconceptions, shock, curiosity, fear – these I would understand. But there’s no real exploration of how it impacts them or their relationships with Angela. (Of course, there’s jealously and some good-old-fashioned-mean-girl-style ostracising over a boy.) Sorry, but the ”looks like your slutty alter dressed you today, LOL!” reactions just ring false to me. Relatedly, after an intense scene in which Angela – with the assistance of her alters – finally speaks up about her paternal uncle sexually abusing her since she was a child, there’s little to no discussion of how this affects the family, apart from a couple of lines towards the end of the book. The scene itself abruptly cuts away to another, and this huge reveal of information just sits there.. undealt with. Then there’s the climax, in which Angela discovers that the toddler she babysits is in fact her own child - conceived with her captor and rapist, who gave the child up for adoption – who just so happened to end up placed with her next door neighbours. I’ll just leave that there for you to digest, shall I?Sadly, there is much fact in this story. The trauma that Angela’s own mind is trying to protect her from is a reality for some, and I don’t want to take away from the seriousness of that. But I am disappointed in the sensationalist tactics Coley uses in her novel, and the superficial treatment of the numerous issues raised in Pretty Girl 13. I would love to read a more proficient take on this topic, so please throw your recommendations at me if you have them.