“I want to burn down the world, but I’m too afraid to strike the match.”
Rating: 3/5 stars
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Thank you Wednesday Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour as well as sending me a review copy in exchange for a honest review!
Lex was taken – trafficked – and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.
After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.
But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.
Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.
Going into this I knew it was going to be a tough read just based off the premise but WHEW this was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. While I do think is book can be powerful for some it is most definitely not going to be for everyone largely because of the topic but also because of how raw and real this story is. Nothing is sugar coated and there are plenty of tough scenes with graphic details/descriptions of Lex’s life while being trafficked so this is definitely the type of read you want to make sure won’t be triggering to you prior to picking it up. You can find a full list of the trigger warnings I’ve come across at the end of this review.
What I Liked
📈 Character growth. There’s a whole lot of growth that happens in this book. Lex starts out skeptical of everyone and everything around her since she’s been let down by the people who are supposed to protect her and take care of her. So, when her Aunt Krys reaches out a helping hand she’s hesitant to take it. I really enjoyed seeing Lex slowly go from thinking that she’ll have to find a way to repay her family for something as silly as buying her a new comforter to realizing that she does deserve to be happy and loved despite what happened to her. There were a few moments that this actually made me want to shed a tear or two.
👨👩👧👦 Lex’s support group. I don’t know what it feels like to be sexually assaulted or sex trafficked and thank God for that. But I do know how it feels to come out of an unimaginable trauma and feel like everyone suddenly looks at you like you’re a fragile piece of glass or a ticking time bomb. To see Lex’s family and new friends treat Lex like a normal human being warmed my heart. Sometimes the best support doesn’t come from the people who expect you to spill your guts about every last thing that you feel, but from the people that know you’ve been hurt, love you anyway, will listen if you need, but don’t act like their walking on eggshells to be around you. So again, that definitely got to me.
🔚 Hopeful ending. I love when books that tackle very heavy topics don’t always have this concrete set in stone ending. Lex’s future is certainly much brighter and hopeful after being rescued from sex trafficking and she’s moved on to making new new friends and having her first normal/healthy relationship with a boy. She has so many options laid in front of her as to where her future can take her and I enjoy how you don’t always need to know which door the character chooses – just that they’re finally in a place where they can heal and grow from their prior traumas.
What I Didn’t Like
❌ Use of AAVE and the N word. This made me – a white reader – incredibly uncomfortable so I can only imagine how startling and hurtful this could be towards Black readers. The author uses AAVE in the beginning of the story and basically any other time Lex comes in contact with the girls of her past. It was used in away to make the girls seem“tougher” if you will and then just disappears as Lex starts to fall into the swing of a more normal life. As for the use of the N word (hard ‘r’ )….there is absolutely no reason it needs to be included in this book. I don’t know if the author thought it was okay because it was coming from a Black character trying to prove a point – but this is fiction and just wholly unnecessary, disgusting, and wrong. If it wasn’t so close to the end of of the book I would have DNF’ed because of the disgusting and degrading manner it was used in. The whole situation just felt gross and wrong to the book.
🖊 Writing. The pacing and just overall writing technique used in this book didn’t seem to mesh well together. The book starts off fast paced and it quickly slows down, then would speed up again, slow down, and repeat. Between Lex being rescued, going to rehab, meeting new friends, having two relationships, being sexually assaulted again and sending the boys to trial, her pimp getting put on trial, and girls being murdered there truly a whole lot going on. On top of that the story goes back and forth between the present and Lex’s past and that made for a very jarring reading experience. I hope that it was just because my copy of this book wasn’t finished but there was no indication whatsoever with the shifts in time so it had me rereading paragraphs over and over again because it made absolutely no sense until you realize it’s because we’ve suddenly moved back to the past or back to present.
tw: sexual assault, rape, sex trafficking, self harm, mentions of suicide, alcoholism, pedophilia, parental abandonment, domestic violence, mention of miscarriage, murder, child abuse
All in all, even though this was a difficult book to get through I do think that it did tell a powerful story about finding your voice after unimaginable trauma. If you think you can handle the trigger warnings mentioned above and the bits of the story I didn’t like then this might be a book worth checking out. But again, I don’t think this book will be for everybody and that’s totally okay too.
Until next time,