Thursday, December 18, 2008

Such a Pretty Girl and Leftovers by Laura Wiess

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And on this installment of Books You’ve Never Before, I bring to you Laura Wiess. I picked up her book Such a Pretty Girl in accordance with a deal I’d made with Kelsey of Just Blinded Book Reviews—I had to get me some Wiess and she had to get her some Megan McCafferty. The result? Well, she’s included in this week, isn’t she?

In Such a Pretty Girl, Meredith’s got a huge problem: her convicted sex offender of a father is coming home sooner than she expected. They’re convinced he’s reformed. Meredith isn’t as naïve, but even so, what can she do? Her mother wants to create a new life for the three of them, and in doing so, wants to give him a new child. (And as Meredith sees is, a new victim when the time comes.) With everyone—the mother who’s supposed to protect her, the legal system that’s supposed to give her justice—turning their back to her, and an abusive father coming home, again: What can Meredith do?

She knows what she’s gotta do. But no one said it would be easy.

This one is a short read but it stays with you well past the last page. For someone unfamiliar with the subject matter (and by unfamiliar, I mean blessedly spared), it’s a mixture of repulsion and awe over the events that take place here. It’s intense and borderline unbelievable. And that’s what makes me be repulsed: it’s hard to believe that’s the reality for some people. Unreliable adults and a predator living at home? Guys, this is too sad to deal with. That’s what makes me be awestruck: Meredith—and doubtlessly other teens—don’t have the choice of “not dealing” with it.

It’s recommended by me, but it’s not a light or pleasure read. In my own measure, I find it important to be read, but I know not everyone likes or can stomach these sorts of books, so use your discretion. But if you start it, finish it.

In Leftovers... I’m going to use the cover description because I really like it:

Blair and Ardith are best friends who have committed an unforgivable act in the name of love and justice. But in order to understand what could drive two young women to such extreme measures, first you'll have to understand why. You'll have to listen as they describe parents who are alternately absent and smothering, classmates who mock and shun anyone different, and young men who are allowed to hurt and dominate without consequence. You will have to learn what it's like to be a teenage girl who locks her bedroom door at night, who has been written off by the adults around her as damaged goods. A girl who has no one to trust except the one person she's forbidden to see. You’ll have to understand what it's really like to be forgotten and abandoned in America today.
Are you ready?

Between the two, this one is—I think—the heavier one, also my favorite. Such a Pretty Girl had the benefit of a sympathetic narrator, whereas here, it’s hard not to hate these girls. I came to maybe/slightly understanding what drove them to do the “unforgivable act,” but I can’t condone it, and it disgusts me just to think about it. However, both girls were a bigger mystery to me than Meredith was, which made me like this one more. It’s a denser read and employs second person through the majority of the narrative, but it’s also a fascinating one.

In sum, both are powerful—but hard to digest—books. Don’t take the “Are you ready?” in Leftover’s description for granted. B+

Further: Read an interview with Laura Wiess pertaining to these books.

Girl Week is a week-long event here on the blog celebrating strong YA heroines and feminism. Find out more about it here.

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Anonymous said...

Both books sound really intense. Thanks for all these great recommendations. =)

Anonymous said...

Yay! I'm so glad you liked them!

Loved the reviews!

Alessandra said...

I've read both these books and found them amazing. Especially Such a Pretty Girl.

Unknown said...

I've had these two titles on my reading list for ages, but my library absolutely never has them in. Always, always checked out. Must be excellent books!

Lenore Appelhans said...

Ok, I just got back from my brother's place and unreliable adults were a big part of that reality (no sex offenders though, fortunately). I also just saw the movie Gone Baby Gone and my heart is breaking for that little girl and girls like her and the characters in these books.

jocelyn said...

These are really intense books, but I love them both. I actually didn't hate Blair and Ardith. I hated what they did, but I also couldn't help but feel sorry for them. As well as committing an unforgivable act, they were victims, too.

Unknown said...

I loved Such a Pretty Girl but hated Leftovers. Blair and Ardith felt like caricatures to me - maybe if they'd at least been good friends to each other, but they weren't.

Sarah Woodard said...

I liked both of these books.

Reader Rabbit said...

:) Loved such a pretty girl but never read Leftovers. Have to check that one out!

Shalonda said...

Oooh, I need to read both of these. I own Such a Pretty Girl, but have not read it yet. While I prefer fun reads (romance, enemies, private schools), I think it is necessary to read heavier material as well, personally, it tends to make a more lasting impact.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I want to read both of these. They look very intense, but like great novels.


Stephanie said...

Just finished reading (and reviewing) Such A Pretty Girl tonight, and I am awestruck by Wiess's writing talent. I'm very much looking forward to reading more by her- looks like Leftovers is going to be amazing as well!

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