I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Little Peach Published by Balzer + Bray, Harper Teen on 3/10/2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
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What do you do if you're in trouble?\r\n\r\nWhen Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York City, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: she is alone and out of options.\r\n\r\nThen she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels.\r\n\r\nBut Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution where he becomes her “Daddy” and she his “Little Peach.” It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition.\r\n\r\nThis hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive.
*I’m not including a content warning, but please bare in mind that the subject matter is extremely heavy and there is teenage sex, drugs, abuse and profanity.
“You talk poor, you stay poor.”
Even when you don’t have kids, it’s hard to read a story about child trafficking. Perhaps especially if you are a girl. Little Peach by Peggy Kern is short at 200 pages, and yet it sends an incredibly powerful message of loss and the search for love. I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed reading it… in fact, I spent most of the book very uncomfortable with the subject matter. But that was the point of the story: to make the reader uncomfortable and bring to light a real problem that many young girls face in this country. Little Peach is narrated by 14-year-old Michelle, as the story unfolds to a case worker in the hospital. The point of view is unique: first person, present tense, and speaking directly to someone. It’s told in Befores and Nows, not quite in alternating chapters, but close enough. More time is spent in the past, as Michelle’s story unfolds. And it is tragic. Michelle is so smart; smart enough to know her circumstances at home are wrong, and wrong enough to run away to NYC with nothing but $50 and a pillow and blanket. Little Peach illustrates the internal struggles of young girls like Michelle, who have no one, no self-confidence and are ripe for pimps to pluck them from train terminals because – “Unlike a bag of heroin, a girl can be sold again and again.”
“You see me, Mama? I’m not your kid anymore.”
Her regression from fear of being employed as a prostitute to her fear of leaving (classic Stockholm Syndrome) her pimp was fast and smooth. Devon knew exactly what words to say to tear her down and build her into the child sex slave her wanted her to be. His small lessons were imparted through his kind words and his callous actions. How can anyone in her situation have resisted such a sneaky, slimy way into the psyche with promises of a brighter future while living in the dark places of the world? My heart broke for her.
“We got real patients to take care of, you know. People who really need help.”
Then my heart broke for other victims like her. People stare at child sex slaves on the street, judgement in their eyes. The nurse who helps the poor girl whose pimp got her addicted to meth, coke, or any other drug, doesn’t want to help her because people see them as lost causes. Maybe the onlookers are the lost cause. Not doing anything is the worst of all.
“We don’t talk for the rest of the night, but I know we’re both thinking about her. Cristina Wakeman. The girl someone is looking for.”
Michelle’s internal struggles were a small light in a dark room. Despite her building loyalty to her “daddy” and the world she had been sucked into, she still knew it was wrong and wrestled with herself to do the right things. Her loss of innocence made me feel wretched. Kern’s writing is fluid and organic to her characters. She shows how easily someone can succumb to their surroundings, especially via language. Her message was loud and brutal, and her emotions come right off the pages. Little Peach gutted me. It is a must read for girls and women everywhere. *Thank you to Balzer & Bray for my advanced copy.