The Pretty One
reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo
Sometimes the prettiest girls have the darkest secrets. As is the case with Claire Boyd’s standalone novel, The Pretty One. A book about family secrets, blended families and how jealousy can tear a family apart.
This book begins in 2012 and flashes back to 2019, which is the current day. Nell is six years old and excited that her eight-year-old stepsister, Bay, is coming to live with them. Bay is Dom Hart’s daughter from a past marriage and he and wife, Anna, believe they can make it work. Nell and Iris, the baby, can’t wait to show Bay their house and her bedroom. Immediately, Bay is jealous of Nell’s room and has a tantrum. Thus begins the blended family dynamic of the Harts.
Eight years later and Anna has taken Nell, Iris and Bay to see an art exhibition. Anna has become uncomfortable and suspicious as a white-haired male has been following them around. When the man catches up with them at the cafe, he introduces himself as David from Take One Models and gives Nell a flyer, ignoring the other two girls. He tells her she could have an amazing career as a model. Anna and Dom are immediately concerned that Nell will fall behind in her school work and exams but she promises to keep up with her grades if they will let her model. They decide to allow it as the money she earns will help pay for her college. Almost immediately, Nell spirals out of control, attending parties, drinking and having sex. Anna, as the Mother, feels unable to stop the spiral. Nell is persuaded to attend parties, mingle with older men and drink as Ian, her manager, looks on. Anna and Dom persuaded Bay, now 17, to attend the parties with Nell so she can look after her. She begins filming the parties and Nell at her most vulnerable moments.
Little do her parents know, Nell is harboring shocking secrets of her abuse at the hands of her step-sister over the years. The Pretty One is a deeply disturbing and heartbreaking family drama about the damage that unbridled jealousy can do to one person. Bay and Nell literally transform before the reader’s eyes into the people they have been all along, but hidden so well. This book is twisty, multi-layered with a palpable tension as the reader is constantly wondering what will happen next. Things explode in the last chapter as true colors reveal themselves and revenge is taken. I was captivated by the first chapter and completely shocked by the last few pages.