They promised me nine years of safety but only gave me three.
Such a Pretty Girl is by Laura Wiess. It is called her debut novel, but I know better. (And, yes, I know, pen names. But still. ALL SHOULD KNOW THE GIRL FRIENDS SERIES.)
At any rate, I sought this “debut” novel out because, of course, my love for the Girl Friends series knows no bounds, and I had to see what kind of writing one of my favorite series writers is up to.
In brief, Meredith’s father, a pedophile who raped her as well as several other children, is released from prison on good behavior six years early. Her mother is still in love with him and demands that Meredith give her father another chance.
What I Liked
– This book is extremely short and fast paced, and Wiess does some truly spectacular character work in so few pages. I could clearly picture all of the characters in my head, and I had a good sense of their personalities, their smells, everything.
– I finished the book in one sitting because I was so worried about Meredith and her friends and family.
– Wiess is not graphic at all, but she offers up concrete details that leave an indelible impression. For example, Meredith mentions the charm on her father’s necklace and says she remembers the whomp of it against her teeth. That is such a small detail that clearly paints a horrifying picture. Gah.
– Meredith is in danger because her mother is blind to the horrors her father has committed. Her mom constantly says he made a mistake and they should give him one more chance, and OMG. It is awful. But. Important. I had problems with the mother’s characterization, but Wiess makes a good point. Sometimes it’s the blindness of those around children (EVEN KNOWING WHAT THEY KNOW) that keeps/puts them in danger. Her mother is so caught up in wanting the dad that she is willing to believe he is not the monster he is convicted of being. The “they” that promised her safety is the justice system, but more than that, should have been her mom.
– Aside from the mother and father, I loved all of the other characters.
– There’s some interesting religious stuff going on in the book. Most notably: victim souls.
What I Didn’t Like
– The characterization of the mother was flat, flat, flat. I have no idea what made her so gung-ho about the dad. (Not that any answer would have sufficed, but.) This is a very self-sufficient woman with her own home that comes from money. I got no sense of what made her so in love with him or why she felt the appearance of a together family was more important than her daughter’s safety.
– There’s a moment where Meredith equates adultery with pedophilia. Um. No. I understand why it would upset her, but none of the characters ever addressed the fact that there’s a difference between two consenting adults doing the dirty and a grown man forcing himself on minors.
– I had to take some real plausibility leaps with this one. That her dad lives in the same housing complex as her and legally fought to win that battle doesn’t sit right. It might be possible, but I want to believe it’s not. That said, her mother kept bringing him around, so it’s not like any kind of restraining order would’ve actually worked.
– I am not in love with the ending. I can’t figure out how I feel about it, though. On the one hand, I like it. On the other hand…I don’t know.
Violence against girls, women, and children.
In conclusion: This is not an easy book to read, and I’m not entirely sure I would suggest it to someone who has suffered abuse, only because it is so terrifying and Meredith spends so much of the book locked in terror. Ultimately, though, she does have to figure out how to survive, and she figths for herself every step of the way.