“You only missin’ if somebody looking for you.” Kat’s words slice through the air. “Understand? We ain’t missin’, Peach. We just gone.”
I cannot give this heartbreaking, awful little book any less than five stars.
This 200-page story really really affected me. I managed to just about keep it together until the end of the last chapter, but then I read the author’s note about why she’d decided to write about this topic and the tears started to pour. It’s so powerful and horrific. I couldn’t look away.
This is one of those books that grips you immediately. There’s no warm-up period – from the very first chapter we’re thrown into Michelle’s life and we feel every bit of her pain, fear and hope. The author knew exactly how to get me emotionally invested and I soon found myself picking this book up at every opportunity – even for brief moments like when waiting for the kettle to boil.
It has the short, powerful punch of books like Living Dead Girl, only this was a much more detailed, multi-layered story that introduced us to a number of characters who demanded our sympathy. I doubt many readers will make it through this book without feeling sad, furious and scared for these young girls.
In this book, Michelle runs away to New York to get away from her drug addict mother and the leery eyes of her mother’s boyfriend. When there, she gets taken in by a kind man called Devon who gives her food, buys her clothes and treats her with fatherly affection. Even though I knew what this story was about, the author is good enough to make the reader become seduced by Devon and the life he offers. We’re right there inside Michelle’s mind, sharing her hopes that now everything is going to be alright.
Not surprisingly, though, it isn’t.
She soon meets Devon’s other girls – Kat and Baby – and finds herself caught up in the world of child prostitution. It’s a very dark novel, made even more so by the truths that linger behind the fiction. This really does happen. And it’s so awful because Michelle, Kat and Baby are all such well-developed characters. I felt so much sympathy for them but was delighted when the author made them strong, clever and sneaky individuals who were far more than just victims.
In the afterword, the author attempts to answer the question of what people can do about child prostitution in the United States. She gives this advice:
Outrage is a good place to start. Awareness is a good place to start. Compassion is perhaps the most important component we can bring to this issue.
Well, Ms Kern, I think your book will deliver a lot of those three things to all the people who read it.