Such a Pretty Girl deals with an unpleasant subject matter: rape. Let me explain something or give you a little history about me. I’m a fan of crime shows like Cold Case Files ,The First 48 Hours and American Justice on A&E. I picked up Such a Pretty Girl off of an recommendation by a bookseller. She had already warned me that the story had a disturbing subject matter but that it was very good. I had no idea what the subject matter was and cracked it open last night. The first couple of sentences gripped me and clued me in immediately:
“They promised me nine years of safety but only gave me three. Today my time has run out.”
Our protagonist is Meredith Shale and she is 15 years old. She is waiting for her mother to come home with her father, Charles. Her father had been in jail for 3 years before being released on good behavior. He was convicted and incarcerated for child molestation. He had raped Meredith and molested five other boys. A court order states that her father is to only have supervised visits with Meredith. Therefore, her mother has made arrangements for her father to stay in a nearby condo.
Meredith’s mother, Sharon Shale is in denial. She expects Meredith to forgive her father and return to the loving family that they were three years ago. Understandably, Meredith wants nothing to do with her father. The problem is that Meredith’s a minor with no other options except one: Andy Muese. Andy is her boyfriend and also a victim of her father. His home becomes a haven for her since her father’s return home. However, Andy is also paralyzed. When he was younger, he was considered “accident prone.” One night after graduation the car he was in was hit by a drunk driver. However, his paralysis is more emotional than physical. Andy and his mother are deeply religious and have decided to drive to Iowa to meet a man who can offer Andy a chance to walk again. However, the timing is bad. Any is leaving just when her father is coming home.
Then there’s retired cop Nigel Balthazar. He was the one of actually arrested her father. Nigel stays around the corner from the Shales and keeps an eye on Meredith. The neighborhood has shunned the Shale family for the past three years. Charles was well loved in the community. He was the high school gym coach. Now, they are outcasts in their own home town. When Charles comes home, things don’t look good for Meredith. Her father has not reformed at all. The story really starts to show how Meredith fights back. The system failed her. Her mother failed her. Thus, Meredith realizes that she is alone and has to save herself and others who may become potential victims.
Despite the disturbing subject matter, I finished this book in one sitting. The action of the story takes place in 2 to 3 day period. The author uses flashbacks and those were very hard to read. Out of human tragedy comes human triumph over evil. Meredith’s strength and determination to not allow others to become victims of her father is gripping. Four is her safe number. She has her rituals, her tools for strength. Why would I read such a story? Alas, because it’s painfully true and it happens. The author has done her homework. I’ve always been told that if you knew how other people lived in this world, you couldn’t live yourself. Meredith is a fictional character but I’m sure she exists. I couldn’t read stories like this everyday. There are monsters in this world. I was ambivalent about posting this book but I thought, why not? It’s your choice to read it nor not to read it. Anyway, this story was beautifully written and painfully real. I couldn’t put it down. I kept turning the pages. Such a Pretty Girl was suspenseful, realistic and gripping. The author just sucked me into this world. However, the ending was a tiny bit too pat but realistic nonetheless. The story also had a religious element to it. I could have done without all the flashbacks but then the book wouldn’t have been what it was without them. Violence like this you don’t want a front seat ticket to watch. Certain scenes, situations were told in bits and pieces. Alas, this is fiction after all. Karin Slaughter’s Kisscut also dealt with this sort of subject matter and I found it equally as gripping and shocking. Such a Pretty Girl was a one time read and not a keeper for me. My grade, B+.