07 March 2013

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

Thirteen-year old Angie disappeared from a Girl Scout camping trip; this book opens three years later when she walks back into her house, having no idea that three years have passed. She doesn't know where she has been, who she was with, or what happened to her - she can't believe the sixteen-year-old looking back at her from the mirror. As she attempts to reenter her life, she begins having blackouts; after a few therapy sessions, it becomes clear that Angie is suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In the face of the extreme trauma Angie has suffered, her mind has fractured, creating alternate personalities who protect her and face her abuser.

The novel tracks the course of Angie's first months back home, and her struggle to integrate these 'alters' back into herself so that she can have one whole persona, while at the same time facing their memories about the abuse she suffered. For the most part, this was a riveting book - the emotions crackled off the page, the characters were alive and vividly painted, and the plot turns were decently developed. Some of the 'science' behind the treatment of DID seemed a little fanciful to me, but I'm no expert so who knows. Angie did seem to recover remarkably quickly, but then, it's almost believable, because she's such a strong character to begin with, and has withstood so much already in her young life, that it seems entirely realistic that she would take charge of her situation and work as quickly as possible to remedy it. I wish her parents had been better drawn characters - they were a bit one-dimensional, and in my opinion their responses to Angie, to her return and to her abuse, didn't ring true.

I found this novel to be an engaging and insightful look at the workings of a child's mind in the fact of horrible trauma, and the amazing ability of the human mind and psyche to heal itself. It might not have been a perfectly scientific telling, but as a work of YA fiction, this book is a win for me, I highly recommend it.

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