WARNING: Disturbing subjects within.Such a Pretty Girl
by Laura Wiess
January 2, 2007
Young adult fiction
They promised Meredith nine years of safety, but only gave her three.
Her father was supposed to be locked up until Meredith turned eighteen. She thought she had time to grow up, get out, and start a new life. But Meredith is only fifteen, and today her father is coming home from prison.
Today her time has run out.
I found this book at the thrift store, tucked inconspicuously between two other young adult novels and boasting a $1 price tag. Upon reading the description and title, I showed the book to M with a knowing, pained look. I don't normally reach for books like this. The content is too dark and picks at parts of my brain that I'd rather remain untouched. Something about this one begged me to give it a chance, however, so a chance I gave.
Such a Pretty Girl is written in the first person, placing the reader in the middle of the mind of a fifteen year old girl fighting to keep herself safe in a world stacked against her. The book takes place over a few days following the release of Mer's father from jail. Through tenderly written pages and flashbacks it is revealed that this father, Charles, is a convicted sex offender. What's worse, he targets young children, making him a pedophile. One of his targets? The very girl whose story the book follows. In other words, his own daughter.
Laura Wiess does not shy away from this topic. Instead, she fights it head on, through Mer's angry outbursts and blunt statements about Charles and what he has done. The story is written in present tense, guiding the reader fluidly through the events and thoughts that attack Mer, tearing her mind down to the young 11 year old in a hospital room, begging for it to stop. Wiess approaches these harsher moments with a tender hand while her fast paced writing prevents the reader from becoming overwhelmed. Through Mer's eyes a contradicting view of her father is revealed: the loving guardian who taught her how to throw a baseball; the man who violated her while her mother chose to turn a blind eye. In these few days, Mer is faced with a heartbreaking decision. Either she must escape now and let Charles assault someone new, or sacrifice herself to him yet again in order to put him away for good.
Such a Pretty Girl is a love it or hate it book. For those who can stomach the thought of what is suggested at times and outright stated at others, the book becomes all consuming. Pages fly by and before there is time to process it, everything has ended. The characters, while rather shallow and one dimensional when given a closer look, are written to give Mer -and the reader- exactly what is needed to get through each moment, and any more depth would derail from the fast pace of the novel.
I found it surprising how fast the book sucked me in. In its short 212 pages, I fell in love with Mer and her beautifully broken mind. In the few hours I needed to yank myself from the book, I found myself in a state of cloudiness only experienced after a good read. Where my mind isn't quite with the real world, instead stuck on the pages I was just engulfed in. It wasn't until after I finished the book that I noticed holes in each characters' persona, and some of the gaps in storytelling that would normally bother me. Perhaps that was intended; I have given this book more thought than other similar length novels. The fact that I didn't notice such storytelling errors in the midst of my reading is a testament to Wiess' skill in writing.
While I wouldn't recommend this book to those of the faint of heart, nor would I recommend the price range of $10-12 that it is brand new, it is definitely worth a look if you want a quick read that picks your brain and finishes in a satisfying manner.