Saturday, December 5, 2009

Such A Pretty Girl: Laura Wiess


They promised Meredith nine years of safety, but only gave her three.

Her father was supposed to be locked up until Meredith turned eighteen. She thought she had time to grow up, get out, and start a new life. But Meredith is only fifteen, and today her father is coming home from prison.

Today her time has run out.


Okay bear with me on this one because I have a lot to say despite how short this book was. It is powerful, emotional, and gripping. This is, of course, I very rough subject but Wiess broached it beautifully. The premise is something that occurs entirely too often and as they say in the book- a child molester is still a human and therefore still has rights under our laws despite how repulsive it is.

The plot: Incredibly hard to read. This book is a very, very fast read and while often times, I want more I think in this case, it worked out beautifully. Too much more and it would have only spiraled me into a depression more than likely because of how into the world and characters I became. Things move at a swift pace- all in the course of about a week, tops. I could not help but hope with everything I had for things to turn out alright for Meredith but my heart ached for her the entire time. Although these are events that real people have to endure every day, there is nothing trite about this story. The plot is strong and it kept me on edge.

Meredith: Meredith is a beautiful example of someone that has been through hell but somehow, in some way unknown even to her, she survived. She thinks she is strong, she thinks she can handle things- only for it to crash down all because the person who dragged her through the fire said the nickname he gave her. One word, and it all shattered. She has quirks borne of what she has suffered, from the way she dresses with somewhat poor hygiene to her obsession with numbers (4 is prime and 8 is doubly good) and even her regimen of vitamins she takes. Never once in this book did I think Meredith was acting like an idiot- her reasoning for everything is clear. Her thoughts are lain naked and free to the reader and all her flashbacks are done in bits and pieces, slowly telling more of the story although you already know exactly where it leads.

Andy: By far, my favorite character in this book. His story is so painfully tragic and it is told in such a way that you just continue to feel more and more for him. His bond and relationship with Meredith unfolds perfectly- leaving you not even sure what to really think about it and finding it both repulsive and touching at the same time. This book got into my head but Andy most of all. Even hours after finishing the book, I am still thinking of him.

Meredith's mom: Reading this book, I couldn't help but think, over and over, how grateful I am for my parents. I never had to endure any of this. Despite the terrible fights I've had with them, despite the bad teenage years, etc- despite all of it, I know they love me. They have never broken my trust not just in them but in humanity in general like Meredith's father does to her, made worse by the mother who chooses her husband over her daughter. I could find no sympathy for Sharon- I don't particularly like kids, but I still firmly believe that when you choose to keep your child (I am not going to say choose to have, because that is often not actually the case- but you did choose to keep it), you are giving up your rights to put things before it. Your child comes first, in all things because if you don't choose it, who else is going to? Meredith is lucky enough to have people who do but the sad reality of our current world is that things don't always go like that. I read a review for a book a few weeks ago where the reviewer (a mom, no shock) ranted about how it seems almost all YA books have bad, irresponsible parents and wanted to know where the good parents were. My internal response: Why are you worried about the bad parents in books when there are so many bad parents that actually have kids? Events like in this book are true- they really happen. This is not fiction.

The ending: Fast. Everything builds and all of a sudden, it is over however, the ending lines left me with a grin which was certainly much needed after reading through this horrific account of child molestation and rape. However, I don't find the swiftness of the ending to be a bad thing in this case. I actually really liked it and couldn't help but find irony and vindication in the turn of events. The idea of pious souls, etc was certainly incredibly unique and I really liked the way religion played into this book. It was a huge thing for one character and it came up often, but it wasn't overbearing or forceful. No matter what their religious beliefs, I think any reader can read this book and appreciate how religion was incorporated into this one- to do otherwise, especially in this case, would be to simply remain very closed minded.

There is strong imagery and a good amount of detail despite the short length of the book yet Wiess doesn't go too overboard in flashbacks to the more gruesome events that happened. I can see many parents not wanting their middle school or even lower level high school kids reading this one- it certainly will shatter and naivety they may hold towards some things but I hope that they also feel what I did- intense appreciation towards their parents that never put them through this and I think it is a suitable read on this subject for such ages since it isn't graphic towards the darker, harsher parts of the actual acts of molestation and abuse.

The father's actions are not a mistake and he was not confused. He knew fully well what he was doing- and he intended to repeat it even after serving jail time. This one got in my head, the story line and character web is twisted and horrible and wrong yet still brilliant and beautiful, and I didn't want to put this book down. It gripped me right from the start and sparked fierce emotions in me. I applaud Wiess for having the courage to write about such a topic- and to do it so beautifully. 5 stars, and continued, roiling, unending thoughts about this one.


  1. Thank you for that gripping review. I want this book now.

  2. Great review, I really want to read this book. I read 'The Bluest Eye' by Toni Morrison which also deals with child molesting etc, but in the end, I felt bad for the child molester.. and I think that for a good reason.

  3. Wow, great review. Now I HAVE to read this one. The story sounds raw and painful, but the characters definitely sound relateable and I want to read how Meredith's relationships develop. Thanks! :)

  4. I read this a while ago and I'm STILL thinking about it. It was an incredible read (I only wish there was more!). Andy was pretty amazing :)

  5. Wow, I'll definitely have to read this one!

  6. I can't wait to read this book. I have read Laura Wiess' other two novels and she is fantastic!

  7. I read this book years ago and it instantly became my number one favorite book. I've read it probably ten times and I talk about it...constantly. If people ask me for a book suggestion, this is the first book I give them.

    I agree with your review wholeheartedly. It's amazing the things that Laura Wiess can do with words.

  8. I read this book twice last year, and loved it. The ending, too. "He is so tall" (quoting from memory), this simple sentence gives you so much satisfaction, don't you think?

  9. Alessandra -- I totally agree. I stared it for several seconds, processing, before I grinned. Such a brilliant, beautiful ending.

  10. I read this book a while back, and I agree, this book is great. Great review, I might have to re-read this one again.

  11. I hadn't heard of this one before but such an amazing review I will get it for sure.

  12. Excellent review! You brought me right there and now I am adding it to my wish list. :)