Angie's Reviews > Such a Pretty Girl

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess
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May 07, 10

bookshelves: belovedbookshelf, girls-who-do-things, ya
Read in February, 2007

SUCH A PRETTY GIRL has only been out for three and a half years now, but I kind of get the impression that--similar to Julia Hoban's Willow--it hasn't reached the wider audience it deserves as a result of its somewhat disturbing subject matter. I know I held off picking it up for awhile. Well, make that several days. I would have gone longer, I'm sure, but I read two absolutely stellar reviews of it and wanted to try it so bad. However, I have a very hard time reading stories about child abuse. I haven't the stomach for it and I tend to emerge so much the worse for wear that I can't make a habit of them. However. Something about the tone of these reviews (I wish I could remember whose they were) encouraged me. So I made a silent agreement with myself that if my library had it, I would go ahead and read it. And wouldn't you know it, it did have it. And this ended up being another case of me running out to buy the book before I'd even finished my library copy. It was that good. And this all happened within the space of one 24-hour period, as this slender volume clocks in at a scant 224 pages. But I'm telling you, Laura Wiess knows how to make every word count. It instantly snagged a spot on my Beloved Bookshelf and I think about it and Meredith often.

Meredith Shale thought she'd have longer to prepare. She thought her father would be locked away for nine years. That's what his sentence read. But after serving three years in prison for child abuse, he's released on good behavior. And he's coming home. Her mother, who never got over her father being gone, is ready to welcome him home with open arms. Meredith's reaction is just a little bit different. At fifteen, she thought she'd be able to reach her eighteenth birthday and leave home, thus avoiding ever having to see him again. But now he's back living in the same apartment complex. And Meredith has no one but her best friend Andy and retired cop Nigel to turn to when her anger and fear threaten to overwhelm her. But Nigel can't always be right there when she needs him. And Andy, who is confined to his wheelchair and not so incidentally had his own brush with Mer's father, really does have his own set of messy issues to deal with as much as he loves and wants to protect Meredith. When the unthinkable first happened, no one believed her. And the horror spread to other kids as a result. In the years since her father was incarcerated, Meredith has acquired several coping mechanisms for dealing with what happened to her. From her strict vitamin-taking regimen to her obsession with prime numbers, everything in her life has its place. Now that he's out, even on parole, she abhors the idea of seeing him, doesn't believe for a second his claims of reformation, and is determined no one else will ever suffer at his hands the way she did again.

I was shocked at how much I loved SUCH A PRETTY GIRL. It's an incredibly fast-paced story, with a very present narrative style so that it feels like you're standing at the sink with Meredith in the morning, sitting on the curb with her under the glaring sun of the afternoon and staring up at Andy's door, walking home with her at night--a ball of dread tearing a hole in the pit of her stomach. And here and there the story is shot through with brief flashbacks to the time in her life when she was most powerless. But it never overwhelms completely. It never made me want to shut the book and leave. Rather, I could not put it down. I loved this girl from page one and I was going to see her through to the end. Which is perfect, by the way. Wiess strikes a touching and precarious balance between moments when Meredith is supported by a desperately needed group of truly good, if slightly unusual people--a cop, a cripple, a zealot--and moments when she is left utterly alone to stand up to her demons. Because she's the definition of a survivor. Meredith lives through nightmares unimaginable, more than any 15-year-old should ever have to live through. And when the law lets the nightmare right back into her house, she doesn't crumble and succumb. She fights. That's why she won a spot on the Top Ten Kick-A** Heroines of YA list I put together awhile back. I took a risk on this book, but it was just extremely well done. The relationship between Meredith and Andy provides an important current of sweetness and light to counter the darkness of their combined pasts as well as the imminent danger of their entwined presents. And to top it off it has one of my favorite last lines ever. An amazing debut novel for Ms. Wiess. Recommended for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Julia Hoban's Willow, and Donna Freitas' This Gorgeous Game.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Mollie (new)

Mollie I've been wanting to read this for a really long time. Just haven't gotten around to it. I read Leftovers by Weiss which was good too.


Emilyandherlittlepinknotes I don't think I could read this book, I can't stomach child abuse either, my mum works for the city council and there are lots of similar real situation that really make me angry and hopeless at the same time. Love the idea of list about Kick Ass Heroines, I would recommend "Let's get lost by Sarra Manning" (she is one of my favourite Ya authors), maybe you heard of it


Angie Mollie, I've heard it is. And I really need to get to it given how much I loved this one.

Emily, I know. I was very relieved it didn't push me over the edge. Thanks for that rec! I haven't read it. It looks intense. :)


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