After a teenage girl’s abusive father is released early from prison, she fears that she will be victimized again.
I hold Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak to be the perfect YA “problem novel.” These novels take a teen in jeopardy facing off against a social issue, and show how the protagonist overcomes the situation. In the case of Speak, the protagonist has gone mute after calling the cops on a summer party, and can’t tell anybody what happened to her that night. Halse Anderson takes Melinda through a journey of cathartic self-revelation that’s riveting from start to finish. (The movie’s good, too.)
Meredith, the protagonist of Such a Pretty Girl, has suffered horrific abuse at the hands of her father, who also abused other neighborhood kids before being sent to prison. He’s been released after 3 years for being responsive to therapy, and while he’s not allowed to live with Meredith or even be alone with a minor, Meredith’s mother is determined to get the family back together. Meredith is trapped in a toxic, abusive situation controlled by adults who are evil. Her only refuge is in the arms of her boyfriend, a paraplegic who was one of her father’s victims.
There was something a little tawdry and exploitative about the way Wiess unrolled Meredith’s history. I didn’t feel hopeful at the end of this book, as I was meant to, I just felt beaten down by how cruel the world can be, and how sick and vile some people can be. I didn’t feel like Meredith transcended what happened to her; rather, I worry for her, even with the book safely put up on BookMooch (2 for 1 on my inventory through Labor Day, by the way). There’s no healing in this problem novel, and that’s not a message I want to send.