Angela Chapman was only 13 years old when she disappeared into the woods and was kidnapped. Three years later, she miraculously returns home, except she has no memories of what happened in those three years. No matter how much the police, her parents, and friends prod and prompt her, Angie can’t remember a single thing.
She tries to return to life as normal as a sixteen year old, except thing’s aren’t right. There are fresh dents in her carpet every morning from her rocking chair, and someone other than her mother dusts and cleans her bedroom every night. As Angie travels down the road of remembering, she realises that the trauma she experienced in the woods was so great that her brain developed alternate identities to cope with the trauma.
As the memories slowly start to come back, Angie must decide if she’s willing to remember the traumatizing past for the sake of sacrificing the alternate identities who saved her.
I absolutely loved this book. Equally painful, heartbreaking, grotesque, and filled with horror, I couldn’t put it down once I started it.
The condition that Angie faces is a real one known as Disssociative Identity Disorder (DID). In cases of extreme trauma, our brains are capable of creating alternate identities (alters as Angie refers to them) to protect us. Thus, these ‘alters’ shield us from the trauma, so that when the dominant identity returns to the forefront, it remembers nothing.
And this is exactly what happens to Angie. In the beginning, I thought she was being haunted by a ghost or some paranormal being, and then I realised that Angie was still forgetting huge chunks of her day. As she experienced even a little bit of stress or trauma in her day-to-day life, her alters would take over. The conversations and interactions with each of these ‘alters’ was fascinating; things that Angie herself would never imagine saying or doing would manifest in her alters. They seemed like completely different people, and it was interesting to remember that they were all parts of Angie, in one way or another.
As the story progresses, it becomes evident that Angie’s childhood was not as innocent and rosy as her and her parents believe. She experienced trauma early on, something she hid from everyone- including herself- which developed the first alternate identity. This made it easier for additional alternates to develop as she experienced the horrors of kidnapping.
By going through therapy, Angie realises that her alters haven’t left the scene yet, even though the worst of her trauma is over. They’re bursting at the edges of her consciousness, ready to swoop in and save the day, but Angie knows there’s something she’s missing. As she races towards the truth she’s known all along, Angie has to decide whether to keep or get rid of these alters, which for better or for worse are a part of her.
Pretty Girl-13 is not a pretty story. It deals with some pretty heavy stuff, such as rape, kidnapping, sexual assault, murder, and psychological disorders. But at the heart of it is a girl who’s trying to remember who she is and what happened during the three missing years of her life. As Angie struggles with all the alters, she’s forced to decide whether to get rid of them and the ugly truths they know, or keep them and retain those ugly memories that will forever change her.
This book was so unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and because of that, I could not put it down, even though I knew there wouldn’t really be a ‘happily ever after’ to a story like this.
So for making me my heart pound with anxiety and my hands sweat with unease, I give this book 5/5.
Thanks for reading,