A 14-year-old flees a terrible home situation only to land in child prostitution.
Michelle lives in North Philadelphia with her drug-addicted mother. When Michelle's mom, unable to stop her sexual predator boyfriend from attempting to assault her daughter, evicts Michelle from their home, Michelle has nowhere to go. She hops a bus to New York City, where a young man is kind to her in the bus station. Devon takes Michelle to his home, and soon she finds herself mired in enforced prostitution among the Bloods. She befriends her fellow underage prostitutes, who convince her to use drugs to soften the blow of the repeated rapes. At least Michelle's abuse isn't as horrifying as that of 12-year-old Baby, who's intentionally infantilized and repeatedly sold to pedophiles. Michelle rockets from one variety of victimization to another with little time to develop a relationship with readers, a device that may be true to life (Kern interviewed former child prostitutes as part of her research) but that keeps Michelle and her misery safely at a distance. There's a generic quality to her character that may represent the experience in broad strokes but that gives readers little to latch on to. Though some teen readers may be moved to take action, as the author hopes, more may well just be happy they are not Michelle.
Despite clear good intentions, the book's focus on victimization is ultimately distancing, creating a likable-but-alienating protagonist. (Fiction. 14-18)