I asked her to apply the "page 69 test" to the novel. Here is her reply:
The Page 69 test couldn't have been a more accurate representation of what is, and what will be, if I'd planned it that way. Pretty amazing.Many thanks to Laura for the input.
Meredith's father is a child molester, convicted and sentenced to nine years, thanks in part to the testimony of his own daughter. Her mother has never forgiven Meredith for reporting the rape, and for testifying against him. She still loves her husband, faithfully visits him in prison, and considers the past over.
Meredith does not.
Since Pretty Girl happens in real time over the course of three+ days, and opens with Meredith's father's nightmare homecoming, the page 69 scene is a flashback leading up to…well, a lot worse.
I really don't want to give anything away, so let's just say there's a reason this book's been called riveting, gripping and intense.
Excerpt from page 69:
Instead, I remember my mother's delight when the call came announcing my father's release date…
"Why that's wonderful!" she says, cradling the phone and beaming at me across the kitchen. Outside the Calvinetti twins argue over an iPod. "I'll take the day off. Really? Oh, I see." Her expression clouds, then clears again. "No, I'm sure we can work around it. Anything to make this happen. Thank you for calling!"
I stare at my spoon, watch the tomato soup vibrate off it in spurting splashes. It's all right, though; I'm no longer hungry.
She hangs up and laughs with delight. "Your father's coming home early!"
I set the spoon down on my napkin. The puree stains the white tissue. I move the spoon into the bowl and crumple the napkin. It's hard to breathe.
"That was the attorney. He said the doctors are very pleased with your father's progress and that his behavior has been exemplary--"
"Well, that's stupid." My reaction is rude and raw. "Of course he's been a model prisoner, Mom. There aren't any kids to molest in prison."
"There's so much to do to get ready," she says, as if I haven't spoken. "He'll need new clothes and a job, a place to live--"
I straighten. "Not here?"
"Well, no, the attorney says that's one of the rules of his release," she says, avoiding my gaze. "He can't live with us just yet. He's on some sort of parole or whatever, with a lot of guidelines. I don't know what they are yet, except…" Her face darkens. "He has to register down at the police department because of his…situation."
"Good," I say and the rest tumbles out fast and faster. "Because that's exactly what he SHOULD have to do, and you know what? I hope they put his picture online so that everybody will know he's a child molester because that's what he is, Mom, just like all those gross old guys in chat rooms trying to--"
"Stop it!" She turns on me, fierce. "Don't you ever talk that way about your father! He had a breakdown, do you hear me? He didn't understand what he was doing!"
Okay, so I added a bit from page 70, but you get the idea.
Meredith was promised nine years of safety. She only got three.
Today her time has run out.
Read an excerpt from Such a Pretty Girl and a Q & A with Laura.
Learn more about the novel at FAQ.
Among the praise for Such a Pretty Girl:
Brilliance comes in a small package. Such a Pretty Girl is deep and ravishing, dark and true. In the character of Meredith, Laura Wiess has created a girl to walk alongside Harper Lee's Scout and J.D. Salinger's Phoebe. Read this novel, and you will be changed forever.Visit Laura's LiveJournal and her Amazon blog.
--Luanne Rice, bestselling author of The Perfect Summer
Such a Pretty Girl is beautifully written and painfully real. Laura Wiess has crafted a gripping story that is heart-rending -- and important, with a capital 'I.'
--Barbara Delinsky, bestselling author of Flirting With Pete
In clear, riveting prose, Laura Wiess boldly goes where other writers fear to tread. Such a Pretty Girl is gritty yet poetic, gut-churning yet uplifting -- a compelling, one-of-a-kind read.
--A.M. Jenkins, author of Breaking Boxes, Damage, Out of Order, and Beating Heart
Brilliant! Such a Pretty Girl hooked me on page one and Laura Wiess' masterful prose kept me turning the pages. This is the first book in a very long time that made me say, "Wish I'd written this."
--Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank and Burned
Such a Pretty Girl is a riveting novel and fifteen-year-old Meredith is a wholly original creation: a funny, wise, vulnerable girl with the heart of a hero and the courage of a warrior. This gut-wrenching story will stay with you long after you finish the last page.
--Lisa Tucker, author of The Song Reader, Shout Down the Moon, and Once Upon a Day
Learn more about Laura's other books.
Previous "page 69 tests:"
Jeremy Blachman, Anonymous Lawyer
Andrew Pyper, The Wildfire Season
Wendy Werris, An Alphabetical Life
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know
Meghan Daum, The Quality of Life Report
Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin' Man
Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
Paul Collins, The Trouble With Tom
John McFetridge, Dirty Sweet
Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero
Bill Crider, Murder Among the OWLS
Zachary Shore, Breeding Bin Ladens
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club
Lawrence Light, Fear & Greed
Simon Read, In The Dark
Sandra Ruttan, Suspicious Circumstances
Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography
Alison Gaylin, You Kill Me
Gayle Lynds, The Last Spymaster
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale