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Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

PRETTY GIRL-13 by Liz Coley

Liz Coley Pretty GIrl 13

Liz Coley’s debut novel, Pretty Girl-13, is a haunting piece that subtly delivers haymaker after haymaker. From its creepy beginning to the gut-wrenching twist at the end, the book grips the reader in a no-holds barred emotional journey that’s impossible to put down.

I settled in to read what I thought would only be a few pages, thinking it would be fairly lightweight reading because the book is a YA novel and fairly compact. I didn’t expect the complexity or the emotional depth Angie has to go through in order to get her life back on track.

The mystery about what had happened to Angie during her missing three years, from the time she disappeared at thirteen till she returned to her parents’ house at the age of sixteen, kept me guessing, but the emotional rollercoaster she went through during her own attempts to make peace with the world kept me glued to the pages.

Coley has done an exceptional job with the book. Just when I thought I had things figured out, she would throw in one more curveball, splintering Angie’s world one more time and setting me to guessing again and again.

There is a lot of hard reading here, too. Despite the fact that this is a YA novel, the subject matter is very adult, but handled in a way that savvy young readers will be able to digest it easily. I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending the book to the younger end of the teen set, but high school age reader will probably enjoy the book a lot.

Pretty Girl-13 is about survival, and it goes into psychological matters and studies that most readers will enjoy. Some of the treatments talked about in the novel aren’t being done yet (as the author notes in an afterward), but those treatments are right around the corner and are extremely interesting.

Coley doesn’t dwell on the psychological aspects in the book, but they’re there. The story stays primarily on Angie’s journey, of her efforts to handle those missing three years, her changed world, and to her reconciliation with everything that happened to her.

The book is part mystery, part drama, but it’s completely gripping and intense. Coley knows how to play to her audience, and I’m looking forward to her next book, though this one will be a tough one to follow.

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