Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

Reading Level:: Young Adult
Pages: 212
Publisher: January 2nd 2007 by MTV (first published 2007)

"Meredith," she calls, waving me closer. "Look who's here!" Her scarlet nails glow orange in the sunset. "Come say hello!"
     I can't. Breathing hurts and I want to run. His head turns toward me and my gaze jumps away, fixes on the fists filling my pockets. I count the rigid knuckles lumped beneath the faded denim. Four is my safe number. Eight is double strength. I smell terror in my sudden sweat. Oh god, please don't let this happen.
     "Meredith," my mother says again, and there's steel beneath the honey. "I'm talking to you. Come here and say hello please. Now."
     It's the bitchy "now" that punctures my paralysis. Now he's here. Now she's happy. Now I'm supposed to act like nothing ever happened...
      The passenger door opens.
     One sneakered foot is planted on the driveway. The other joins it.
     "Hello, Meredith."
     The voice is quiet, kind, hoarse with history...and it destroys me. A sick, writhing knot of old love and despair lays me open worse than that first time and the force of it almost takes me down. I lock my knees, trying not to sway. This was not supposed to happen. I spent years steeling myself, reliving every rotten moment over and over again to make myself immune, hiding from nothing so there would be nothing hidden left to cripple me, and I thought I'd made it, but now, with one simple greeting, I've already lost.
     "No, Daddy, no. Don't."

Meredith is sitting by a dumpster in her condominium complex waiting for her father to come home from prison. In the pit of her stomach is a boulder of anxiety and fear heavy enough to weigh her down to her spot on the curb because where would she run to even if she was light enough to move. This is home. For three years she's struggled to cope with what has happened, safe in the knowledge that she'd have six more years of freedom to deal with it.

All morning long her mother has chirped and fluttered about the house like a preening happy bird out of a children's fairytale because she's excited that the man who abused and molested at least five known children is coming home to her today. Everything will be perfect now. It was just a mistake. They are still family and family forgives each other's mistakes, right? The parole board did so it must be ok. He was suppose to go away for nine years but he's out in three because he's been so well behaved. He's been a model prisoner. He's so sorry and he's mended his ways.

It'll be like it never happened. At least until it happens again.

So I don't need to tell you what this book is about. I think you get it and if you need a moment to process it, take it. It's a heavy subject, one that shouldn't even exist in a story, in a book, in a country, in a world or even in a thought. But it does and through very meticulous weaving of past and present events, Wiess has written a road map to guide you through the awful and to help you see rape and abuse through the victim's eyes without scaring you back into the safety of your own conscious that doesn't like to admit that such a thing is even possible. Taking into consideration the magnitude of this subject, the brevity and careful, thoughtful retelling of the events in Meredith's past make it easy to take the plunge and see the book through. Wiess never intends to scare you away or beat you down with her subject matter, she intends only to help you understand. Given what she could have done, I think she handles the reader's emotions with kid gloves.

This is a marvelous read worthy of immediate devouring. I couldn't put it down once I started. Be prepared to travel the full spectrum of emotion. The physical description of Meredith's father is so vivid- when she described his gold necklace against his hairy chest my skin crawled instantly and I hated him more than ever. I loathed her mother and wanted to beat her senseless with my bare hands. What a rotten, stupid, pathetic individual. And Meredith earned a "hell yes, girl" when she finally took matters into her own hands and saved her day with an almost superhero like display of strength. Meredith has a unique way of coping with what has happened to her and a very eclectic self-appointed safety net of people who's stories and roles in the book make for well timed breaks as we start to deal with Meredith's life. I loved it. It's re-readable because even without a happy ending (because can there ever really be one when we're talking abuse?) the story leaves us all set to go on with our lives. Definitely a good book hangover.

And for any reader, writer, publisher or other assorted book person who wonders how book bloggers can increase sales and readership- I bought this book because Angie @ Angieville said it was great. So there you have it.

3 thoughts?:

Angiegirl May 11, 2010 at 11:26 PM  

Ooh. I love your "loved it lived it miss it" tag. That's a great one to have.

And you're very much right about the kid gloves handling and the "hell yes, girl" moment with Meg. I appreciated both so much. They made the book for me. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It's quite something.

B.A.M. Book Reviews May 12, 2010 at 4:12 PM  

I liked this book a lot. I think I'll re-read it again because of your review :)


Life After Jane May 13, 2010 at 7:40 AM  

Angie- It's a good book hangover. The kind where you walk around dazed after reading it wondering where the story stopped and your life began again. I love it when a book blurs the line for me so that I forget where I am :)

Briana- And thus the power of book blogging. We win! Thank you!

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