Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pretty Girl-13

Angela Chapman is thirteen years old. The last thing she remembers is going on a Girl Scouts trip and encountering a frightening person in the forest. Now, she is wearing weird clothes and has scars she doesn't remember getting. When she returns home, her parents tell her she has been gone for 3 years, but she still has no recollection of even being gone. As she is getting used to being 3 years older than she feels and acclimating to her new life, strange things start to happen. Angela finds chores done around the house, but no one admits to doing it. She wakes up exhausted after getting full night's sleep and finally finds a note written by a fragment of her personality called an alter. Dissociative identity disorder is the name of her condition, more famously known as multiple personality disorder. Now, Angela has to embark on a terrifying journey to collect the memories of her abduction and put her life back together.

I have read a few books on dissociative identity disorder, which is still very controversial and many still doubt the veracity of the disorder. I always thought the subject was much too adult for teens because of the descriptions of abuse that contributed to the fracturing of the main character's psyche. Liz Coley describes these events without an overabundance of detail and makes it palatable for a teen audience. The emotional impact is just as strong even without the more graphic descriptions that would be seen in an adult novel. Angela's story brings to mind the victims of prolonged abuse in the headlines today. I was disgusted, saddened, and filled with rage when further abuse in her past was dismissed by her relatives, by the way her so called friends treated her after she returned to school, and by the three years of abuse she had to endure. So, be prepared for an intense emotional roller coaster.

Angela and her personalities are very different from each other. Angie is an innocent, normal thirteen year old girl. She's confused and wants to find out about what happened to her. Her alters protected her from the horrible truth and in turn protect the reader as well by doling out information bit by bit. Girl Scout is resourceful and excels at cooking. Little Wife is forward, daring, and sexual. Tattletale is a shy, scared little girl. These are only the main ones. Some of the minor ones are much less fully realized. All of them have different opinions, senses of style, and preferences. The readers never get to experience the point of view of any of the alters, like Angela. We only see their written narratives, tape recordings, or the aftermath of their actions. I think it would have been nice to see them more up close and see the world through their eyes, but it was a strong narrative choice and makes us sympathize more with Angela.

Pretty Girl-13 is an addicting read that I finished in one sitting. I needed to know what happened and some of the revelations caught me by surprise. The only problem I had with the novel was the use of technology to instantly get rid of the alters. I'm not sure if that was made up, but it sounds too convenient. It takes decades of therapy to get to that point for most people. Other than that, I would recommend this book for those not afraid of an emotionally heavy, but ultimately inspiring novel.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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