1 of 12
Pretty Is
320 pages; Henry Holt and Co.
Lois has a secret she can't shake off: She was one of two young girls abducted by a man and hidden in a forest cabin for weeks when they were 12 years old. Now 29, she's mined the ordeal for a novel, safely hiding herself behind her pseudonym. But now that her novel is about to become a movie, her calm, well-ordered life as an author and English professor (with a specialty in abduction stories, natch) begins to fall apart. An increasingly stalker-ish student seems to have discovered her past, and one of the actresses in the movie, whose birth name is Carly May but who goes by Chloe, turns out to be Lois' fellow abductee. If that last twist seems a touch convenient, don't worry: Mitchell knows what she's doing. As she patiently parcels out details about the abduction, she explores the horrifying yet magnetic grip such traumas have on our lives and imaginations. Why does Chloe take comfort in revisiting her brutal past? Why can't Lois resist keeping close to her stalker, mining him for inspiration for her novel's sequel? "Once we've collapsed the past and the present, the truth and the fictions, we will peel the layers apart, organize the pieces and put ourselves back together," Lois writes. Gone Girl has primed us for female leads with dark pasts, but Mitchell's novel is an original and haunting page-turner about the emotional shocks that come with—literally—rewriting your history.
— Mark Athitakis