“Pretty is as pretty does.”
POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING
Lois, the spelling bee champion, and Carly-May, the pageant princess, are kidnapped in broad daylight in their early teens.
They spend six weeks in the Adirondacks with their kidnapper, who they names Zed, until one day the inevitable happens and they’re returned to their lives, though not unchanged.
Pretty Is follows their stories at a much later stage in life. Lois is a professor of English and author under the pseudonym Lucy Ledger, while Carly-May, now Chloe Savage, is trying to find fame as an actress. Fate throws them back to each other when Chloe is cast in the novelisation of their abduction that happens to be written by none other than Lucy Ledger.
All the while Lois is trying to write the second novel in the series and struggling to maintain her two lives. When a student shows an extra curricular interest in Lois and her childhood secret she has to face more harrowing choices than she though possible.
*Please note: I received this book gratis in order to provide a review. This review is my honest opinion and is unaffected by the receipt of this for free.*
I was very surprised by this book. For several reasons, firstly, the characters. Carly-May gives off what would normally be an unappealing hollywood personality, but Mitchell expertly humanises her and really gives her a depth that no one, other than the reader and possibly Lois, can really see. The narrative often switches between both Lois and Chloe reminiscing about moments of the abduction and their lives before and after it happened. There’s a parallel element to their individual narratives that brings the overall plot a linear perspective. This book definitely requires the reader to absorb elements of the timeline and place them in them into their respective date like a jigsaw but this adds to the intrigue. You don’t learn everything at once it is heavily focused on the women’s memories as they encroach on their adult lives.
Another part about this book that made it particularly unique was the meta-narrative elements. Because in the plot, Lois writes a book about the abduction, the middle section of the novel Pretty Is, features a section from Deep in the Woods by Lucy Ledger. These complex interweaving narratives gives the reader a biased idea of what happened during the abduction, that gives the appearance of fact, when it is actually Lois’ memory. The way that this meta-narrative is evidently biased is through Chloe’s reaction to reading both the screenplay and the novel once she realises.
What I love about this book is that it contains a multitude of complex characters and themes but is still very readable. The plot including Sean is something I’ve decided not to discuss because even though it is tightly interwoven into the overall story, what I find fascinating about this book is the characters of Lois and Carly-May, who as women have become engulfed by those six weeks and have carried their secret with them while their family’s abandoned them and everyone else is clueless. By finding each other again they were able to work through their unanswered questions and really try to understand why Zed kidnapped them in the first place. Unfortunately, this is not clarified by Mitchell, though I think the impact of the book is entirely dependent on this factor.
This is a unique book that I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys YA Thrillers with a gritty narrative.
Have you read Pretty Is? What are your thoughts? Comment below or Tweet me @HowlingReviews.