Angie is thirteen years old when she goes missing. Next thing she knows, she’s standing outside her family home with scars on her ankles and wrists. Three whole years have passed but to Angie, she’s only been gone a few hours at most. She must get to grips with the lost time and adjust to her life as a sixteen year old but if she wants to discover what happened to her, she must confront the secrets locked in her mind.
There was a great idea in here somewhere but overall I felt a little disappointed. I’ve had a good run of novels dealing with memory loss so maybe I was holding it to a very high standard. From the moment of her return, it’s quite obvious what has happened to her; the repressed memories and scars pretty much sum it up. That she doesn’t work it out herself is a little unbelievable even if she does think she is only thirteen. Each time something new was introduced, it was so obvious what it was going to lead to.
It’s mostly told in third person but the basic writing style would have suited the first person voice of a child; even when Angie appears to grow up mentally, the style doesn’t grow with her. This did mean it was a quick and easy read but it was lacking in emotional engagement. Even if she had no memories, wouldn’t the fact that she had lost three years be distressing? That she had horrific scars and the face looking back in the mirror was older than she expected? Instead she seems rather blasé about the whole thing.
This next bit might be a bit of a spoiler, but I feel it explains what is interesting beyond the missing girl story. Angie’s memory loss is explained away by dissociative identity disorder, or what has been more popularly called multiple personality disorder, triggered by the trauma. Her other identities came out to protect her throughout her ordeal and slowly begin to reveal themselves through therapy. Exploring these characters and allowing them to reveal different aspects of her story is a fantastic idea. The changes in narrative voice were well done (again, why I thought first person throughout would have worked better) and also explains why the book starts out in second person.
The things that our minds can do are fascinating and astounding. I’d really like to read more on the subject of DID, either in well researched fiction or non-fiction. I wanted a little bit more psychology around it and I did think the doctor’s treatment sounded a bit made up. If it wasn’t, it really needed a bit more substance to back it up. I’m not sure if it is aimed at younger readers or not, which might explain the lack of more in-depth science.
Pretty Girl Thirteen is published by Harper and is now available in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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