Book Review: Pretty Is – Maggie Mitchell ***

UK Publication Date: 21 Apr 2016. 320 pages.

It is an interesting angle for a story. Two twelve year old girls are abducted from their respective homes in small-town America. Carly May is a junior beauty queen attending pageants and winning titles. Lois is a Spelling Bee Champion and a wordsmith. They have been specifically targeted. After a summer of captivity the girls are rescued and Zed, their kidnapper, is killed. The girls are absorbed back into their families and stopped from contacting each other in an effort to encourage them to assimilate better.

Now in their late twenties the women’s lives intersect again. Lois is a professor of English Literature and has published a fictional version of their abduction under a pseudonym. After a period modelling Carly May has reinvented herself as Chloe. A struggling actress in Hollywood who gets all the “victim dies in the first scene” type of roles. Now a film producer is turning the book into a movie and when Chloe reads for the part of the police woman she realises straight away that it is based on “their story”.

I found the plot and the premise quite engaging and despite some nagging doubts about the reactions of the girls to their kidnapper this book does have some really positive points for a debut novel. I found the telling of the story itself quite clumsy as it switched between each of the girls aged twelve and to both of them in the current day. The majority of what happened to them in captivity is just inserted into the book as a story within the current novel and it didn’t feel like it fitted into the framework that Mitchell had created. I was torn between abandoning the book altogether and ploughing through to the end.

There are some interesting discussion points here that might make it a good read for a book group. The girl’s reaction to Zed and the way they compete for his attention is a little creepy.

Supplied by Net Galley and the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Pretty Is

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