Here’s a book I completely can’t make my mind up about, Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell. It was absolutely brilliant to start with, I was completely gripped and couldn’t wait to get stuck into the crux of the story and get to the twist it felt it was building up to. But the twist never came and it ended up feeling quite flat for me. It was excellently written, incredibly dark and really interesting, but just didn’t give me what I expected from a thriller. I felt disappointed. The hardback came out last year but it’s coming out in paperback in April 2016 from Orion so maybe see what you think!
“Lois and Carly-May were just twelve when they were abducted by a stranger and imprisoned in a cabin in the woods for two months. That summer, under the watchful gaze of their kidnapper, they formed a bond that would never be broken.
Decades later, both women have new lives and identities. But the events of that summer are about to come back with a vengeance. Lois and Carly-May must face the truth about their secret, shared past…
What really happened in the woods that summer?”
This book was literally a tale of two halves – the first reveals two women, Lucy and Chloe, new names for two young girls who were taken when they were twelve. They’re twisted and dark and I loved how different the story was, especially when it flashed back to the young girls who seem to even enjoy being taken, almost willingly being abducted. The two are brought together in an almost too unlikely way when Lucy’s novel (essentially a novel about their experience when they were kidnapped) is turned into a film, starring Chloe.
I think the problem I had with the book, was the same problem the characters had all the way through: that nothing happens. There’s no sudden plot twist, no brand new bit of information which makes you feel like the floor has been swept from beneath you and I was expecting one. I think if I had gone into this book knowing it wasn’t a twisty thriller, but more an exploration of emotions and identity after certain events, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. It’s a book about how nothing happens so inevitably it felt that way – like nothing had happened. The novel shows how much you can be affected if nothing happens, as much as if something horrific happens – how any experience like that leaves an unbreakable bond that you can’t shake even into adulthood and in all fairness, this book showed that incredibly well. The adult characters were so brilliantly described and presented that you could see how they were shaped by those few months when they were 12 and how it ‘mucked’ them up, for want of a better phrase. I liked how it wound fiction and reality so tightly that you couldn’t be sure what was real and what wasn’t and I loved the author’s tone. It was interesting to say the least, to see the dark side of these characters presented, because they not only seem to have a kind of love for their old captor but seemed to like being taken too. It really gets you thinking about the situation the book presents: their feeling of rejection is bizarre because you would never want to be raped/tortured/killed. Yet this kidnapper made the girls feel like that, simply by taking them, and then letting them live relatively normally with him and compete for attention. They would ask ‘why isn’t he doing this to us?’ as much as the reader is.
For me, it just fell a bit flat in the second half of the book. It built and built to what felt like nothing purely because I was expecting something. The interest of their unique situation just didn’t hold up enough as a plot in my view, I felt frustrated – interestingly like a lot of the characters in the book did. It didn’t make sense to me and I wanted to know why and never felt like I did. Instead of that feeling enigmatic, it just felt annoying. The piece of action which does take place through the book with Sean and his creepy tendencies just felt a bit random and I never really felt the tension there, I was much more interested in the other storyline with their past.
Pretty Is is definitely creepy and certainly psychologically thrilling and it was a really interesting concept well explored, but I just finished the book feeling a little dissatisfied. A shame – but I wouldn’t write off reading anything of Maggie Mitchell’s in the future because for the first half of the book, I was completely enthralled.