Book Reviews · Fiction

Book Review: “What Unbreakable Looks Like” by Kate McLaughlin

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Happy Pub Day & Thank you @wednesdaybooks for my gifted copy of “What Unbreakable Looks Like” by Kate McLaughlin! Available today, 6/23!

Lex was taken –trafficked– & now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt & uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend & his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her & that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight & realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, & a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s “What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life & learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

I will warn you upfront, this is a very difficult book to read. I had to stop at least 3x & go back to it on a day where I could handle it better mentally. (Trigger warnings for graphic physical & sexual violence, rape, & human trafficking. And kudos to the publisher for noting this at the beginning of the book.)

I live in Ohio, which is 5th highest in human trafficking cases, & about 45 mins from Toledo, which is the 4th highest city in the US for cases. We often have reports of unmarked vans trolling through our area w/ people in them trying to get kids (& sometimes adults) to come to the van & help w/ directions or some other seemingly innocent problem. One girl I know had a car follow her & her friends one night, someone jumped out at a stoplight & slashed one of her tires, & then they continued to follow them. But the girls were smart & called 911 right away. There are more stories I could share, but let’s get to the book. (And just talking about the above freaks me out so much!)

Gut-wrenching, raw, relevant, & thought-provoking, Lex learns to allow herself to trust again, even while dealing w/ the aftermath of sexual assault, followed by cruel treatment & bullying by her peers, & coming to terms w/ her past & finding the courage to tell herself she is worthy of love & a future & happiness. It was often painful & emotional to read, but the overall message is hopefulness & strength. A really powerful read!

Click HERE to add this book to your Goodreads TBR.
Click HERE to get this on audiobook at Libro.fm & use my code MOMLOVESREADING for a BOGO.
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What others are saying about “What Unbreakable Looks Like“:

Book Riot, “The Ultimate Guide to Spring 2020 YA Books for Your TBR”

Culturess, “13 must-read June YA book releases to start your summer off right”

“This shines a light on a little-talked-about topic that involves teens.” – Booklist (Starred Review)

“This story of resilience and recovery is gritty and heavy but ultimately hopeful… A gut-punch story with an uplifting ending.” – Kirkus

“[A] beautiful insight into what it means to heal and have hope. …If you are wanting a heartwarming, heartbreaking, inspiring, and hard hitting story, I would definitely recommend you pick this book up.” – The Nerd Daily

“Gritty and moving, What Unbreakable Looks Like is a compelling story about recovery and the problem of human trafficking that persists today.” – Young Adult Books Central

“With unflinching honesty, What Unbreakable Looks Like exposes the injuries and scars we wear on our skins or in our souls. Hidden damage is tragically common, but helpful others who dared embrace hope invite Alexa to step onto the healing path. This novel may offer a springboard for a reader’s own healing or foster empathy for life’s walking wounded.” – Liz Coley, author of international bestseller Pretty Girl-13

“Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin’s thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma.” – Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project

“This is a powerful book about a sobering topic that I found myself thinking about for days after I completed it. It is wonderfully poignant, painfully real, and even laugh out loud funny at times. Not everyone can truly wrap their minds around the trauma these victims endure and yet somehow, despite all of it, are still just regular kids. But Kate McLaughlin gets it. ‘Lex’ is truly what unbreakable looks like and you’ll fall in love with her spirit.” – Tanya Compagnone, Trooper First Class

“Sex trafficking continues to seep into all our communities. In this novel, Kate McLaughlin brings to life the trauma that transpires in youth who forced into the life of sex trafficking. Her novel is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in someone’s life.” – Dina R. St. George, MSW, Juvenile Re-Entry Unit OCPD

KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats.

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