A sex-trafficking ring kidnaps a 13-year-old girl in Young’s mystery/thriller.
When Brianna, 13, doesn’t show up for school one day, police reluctantly take the report. They think she’s a runaway—especially when Brianna’s Uncle Dre finds a notebook in her room, the name “Jaden” scribbled throughout. But Dre and Brianna’s mother know that she wouldn’t have just run off. Angela, Dre’s friend, is a lawyer who’s seen many exploited girls. At first, Dre doesn’t want to believe her suggestion that Brianna could have been kidnapped by a sex-trafficking ring. But when Dre (who served time for drug possession but is now straight) connects with some old cronies, he learns that “[g]irls are the new crack, my brother….They’re literally snatching girls off the street, breaking ’em down and forcing ’em into prostitution. Having ’em turn 10, 20 tricks a day. The younger the better. And unlike a kilo, one girl can be sold over and over and over again.” Dre conceives a simple plan: With backup from friends, “[h]e would find Brianna and bring her home. Then somebody was gonna pay.” Young (Buying Time, 2010, etc.) is a practicing attorney and, as a Compton native, knows well the Los Angeles–area locations where the novel is set. She skillfully mixes discussion of a serious social and legal problem with realistic characters and action. She explains clearly how girls can become exploited through lies, grooming and other techniques; the different types of pimps; how the Internet makes “dating” young girls easy; and why it can be difficult to rescue such girls. Especially welcome is the way she avoids prurience. When Dre asks a woman who now runs a safe house if she herself had been a teen prostitute, she responds “There’s no such thing as a teen prostitute….They’re children. Sexually exploited children.” A further plot twist adds drama to the story while keeping it believable.
A fast-paced, well-written thriller that’s grounded in important social issues.