Written by Liz Coley

Review written by Sara Townsend

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group.

Harper Collins
RRP: £11.81
Released: 28th February 2103

Angie Chapman is thirteen-years old when she goes camping in the woods with her friends and gets lost one night.  The next thing she knows, she’s arriving at her house.  But she is shocked to discover that three years have passed since the night she disappeared and the day she arrives home.  She has no memory of what happened to her in that time, but scars on her wrists and ankles that she can’t explain give some clue as to what might have gone on.

Angie is sent to a psychiatrist, and is soon diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID and once known as Multiple Personality Disorder).  She has undergone a trauma so severe her psyche has fragmented into separate personalities in order to deal with it.  The psychiatrist begins to work with Angie to ‘speak’ to her different personalities, in order to learn what happened to her, and understand how to merge Angie’s psyche back into one whole again.  In the meantime, Angie has to learn to live her life again, which is particularly traumatic for her as she has to get used to being sixteen.  In her mind, she is still thirteen.

The crime element of this story is not particularly complex – it’s fairly easy to guess what happened to Angie, and there’s a pointer to earlier trauma in her life before her kidnap that triggered her DID, that is evident early on in the story.  And the ending is a tad disappointing.  But it is an excellent study of this particular disorder in a young person.  My first exposure to DID was coming across SYBIL on my parents’ bookshelf as a child, but not really understanding either the book (it being a somewhat dense adult read) or how a person could have separate personalities.  Pretty Girl Thirteen does an excellent job of explaining DID, and I wish something similar had been around for my generation – it would have helped me understand it a lot earlier.

Don’t approach this book as a crime novel.  Approach it as a study of a young woman’s journey back to normalcy from a psychologically devastating traumatic event, and it’s a gripping read for both teens and adults alike.

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