Ellen Hopkins, . . S&S/McElderry, $18.99 (640pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-5007-3
Hopkins again tackles a serious societal problem, this time focusing on teen prostitution. Fans of her work will recognize both her signature free verses and the gritty details she weaves within them. Newcomers, however, may be shocked by the graphic depictions of five struggling teens who find themselves turning tricks (one realizes her mother has sold her “for a good time” with a stranger, while another recounts “pretending to enjoy... deviant sex” to earn the trust of a guard at an ultra-strict religious rehabilitation camp). Some plotting seems clichéd, such as the story of a preacher's daughter from Idaho, whose mother banishes her to the Tears of Zion camp after catching her with her boyfriend. While each story unfolds slowly, readers will understand the protagonists' desperation as well as their complete powerlessness once their descents have begun. Each story is unique (one teen needs money, another was thrown out because of his sexuality, still another was simply looking for love from the wrong person); while readers may connect with some characters more than others, they will long remember each painful story. Ages 14–up.
Reviewed on: 07/20/2009