A debut novel calls attention to the sex-trafficking crisis.
Remacy loves calligraphy and horseback riding, but when her father dies and her mother remarries, her stepfather begins “grooming” her for molestation. Lukas loves to surf, though he too is mourning his dead father when he’s abducted suddenly amid a family vacation to Atlantic City. Shaukita thinks an older boy is going to take her to a school dance, but he drugs her, and she wakes up chained to a bed. Sophie is born into “the life,” a slave taken from her mother and moved from place to place at the mercy of her captors. One way or another, these children all find themselves caught in the underworld of sex trafficking and slavery. The novel follows them and others who are involved in this terrifying work, including those who perpetuate it. Giovanni is a “two-bit bookie” who starts running girls in order to make more money. Robert is a businessman with particular desires that cause him to search out the services of children. Annika, Lukas’ mother, works tirelessly to discover what has happened to her son. Abrams follows 12 characters (including one named Joann Abrams) as their stories intersect across time and space, slowly revealing the extent of human depravity—and resilience. The author narrates each of her characters in the first person, summoning them with energetic, personality-laden prose, as here with young Lukas: “During the summer, I wash my own clothes. No one goes near them. The joys of childhood! Surfing, boarding, soccer and tennis, that’s me!” The author does a sound job presenting the various perspectives of those involved without removing the moral dimension of the premise: The victims remain victims and the villains, villains. But readers may have a hard time becoming fully immersed in such an explicitly didactic story. Abrams includes both a long foreword and a conclusion in addition to her largely unnecessary appearance as a character. (She also offers a sizable helping of Christianity with her perspective, which every reader may not want.) Even so, the book continues in the fine tradition of muckraking social novels.
An ambitious, if slightly underwhelming, tale about sexual slavery.