Title: Pretty Is
Author: Maggie Mitchell
The summer precocious Lois and pretty Carly May were twelve years old, they were kidnapped, driven across the country, and held in a cabin in the woods for two months by a charismatic stranger. Nearly twenty years later, Lois has become a professor, teaching British literature at a small college in upstate New York, and Carly May is an actress in Los Angeles, drinking too much and struggling to revive her career. When a movie script with a shockingly familiar plot draws the two women together once more, they must face the public exposure of their secret history and confront the dark longings and unspeakable truths that haunt them still. Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell beautifully defies ripped-from-the-headlines crime story expectations and announces the debut of a masterful new storytelling talent.
Pretty Is is a riveting thriller about the afterlives of two abduction victims. Apart from the anti-climactic ending, Maggie Mitchell kept me glued throughout the novel.
My weakness is thrillers surrounding abduction situations, and I couldn’t help but snatch up Pretty Is when I found out that it fell under that category. The short chapters helped with switching the perspective of the story between the two female protagonists, and I found that they made the novel easier to read. I swallowed this book like candy due to the fast-paced storyline, but it ended up leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. The resolution to the main plot point in the novel was understated and rushed. I like my books to end with a bang, but Pretty Is fizzled out.
Chloe and Lois were abducted when they were preteens by a man who had been stalking them and planned their abductions due to Chloe being a beauty queen and Lois being a spelling bee champion. He took them to a cabin in the woods and provided them with clothing, food, and shelter before he ended up killing himself and the girls returned home. No abuse took place, and Lois and Chloe spent a good portion of the novel contemplating what his motives were.
Fast forward into the future, and Lois is the best selling author of a book based on the abduction while Chloe is an actress. Both seem superficial from the start, and even though the reader learns more about the characters’ personal lives as the novel goes on, I found it hard to relate to either Lois or Chloe. Since each chapter consists of their inner thoughts, we experience how they feel conflicted about their abductor. Sometimes they think of him fondly, and at other times they are more confused about him. The fact that the abductor did not abuse the girls does fight the classic plotline of abduction novels that involve sexual and physical abuse. I understood how the girls felt more confused about their situation since they were used to hearing about abduction cases where abuse ensued, and since both girls came from families where they did not feel accepted, their abductor was a savior in some way.
Now, let’s talk about the ending. Throughout the novel, Lois has a stalker interested in her abduction; however, his motives keep changing. At the end of the novel, the stalker becomes an issue, but it wasn’t a surprise ending since too much information about him was presented early on in the novel. The only way Pretty Is could have been better would have been if less information was given about the stalker until the end of the novel. Less information could have led to a more impactful ending.
Pretty Is is a novel that challenges classic abduction novels. It presents a situation that changes two girls in a profound way that makes them question their own lives and the actions of others. Despite the anti-climactic ending, Pretty Is kept me glued throughout. I recommend this novel to anyone who likes abduction novels. It may not be the most suspenseful novel, but it will make you think about society’s fascination with crime in a new way.