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PRETTY GIRL THIRTEEN
by Liz Coley
Harper, February 2013
384 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007468512


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This book is proof of the fact that with a strong enough hook to reel me in, I'll even read on past my two biggest dislikes: a prologue combined the added problem for me of being written in the second person, something I find clumsy and almost impossible to follow. But despite those drawbacks, I wanted to know what had happened to Angie Chapman, a girl who had been abducted from a scout camp at the age of thirteen, only to return three years later with apparently no memory of what had happened to her during her lost years. And the use of the second person was later proved to be crucial to the plot, although in the early stages of the book it was by no means as well integrated as it was in later stages.

Angie has to cope with an invasive medical examination, endless questions for her parents and the police and, worst of all to her, a body that has seemingly aged three years overnight. At first she doesn't think she wants to know what happened to her, but it soon becomes clear that she isn't the only person whose opinion of the subject matters. Angie's body shows clear signs of abuse, she has scars on her ankles from shackles and rope marks on her wrist and she also has to come to terms with the fact that she had been repeatedly abused over a long period of time.

With the help of a psychologist, Angie realizes that her ordeal at the hands of the kidnapper had caused her to retreat into her own mind and allow other aspects of her personality to take over. The conclusion is that Angie is suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, which in her case manifests itself as multiple personalities within her own mind, and it is these personalities or 'alters' as they are called that both Angie and her psychologist have to get to know and negotiate with if Angie is to unlock the secrets of her own mind.

Liz Coley writes well and convincingly about the psychological aspects of the book, although there were times when I felt she cut corners and strayed into areas that seemed closer to science fiction than medical fact. But despite that, Angie's story, and that of her alters, turned the book into a compulsive page turner. I cared about her, and I cared about the others in her head, like Girl Scout, the calm practical one; young, scared Tattletale; the mysterious Angel, their protector; and the most elusive alter of them all, the one who stays up at night in a rocking chair in Angie's bedroom.

The descriptions of Angie's attempts to reintegrate herself into school with thirteen years of knowledge in a body that is three years older are among some of the best drawn of the book. Friendships are remade, broken and made again in a story of a girl who has been through things that no one should have to suffer. There were elements of the storyline that felt rather forced, and certainly too coincidental, but none of that detracts significantly from the impact of a book that I devoured in two sittings.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, February 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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