I received this book for free from YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Anna has spent three years living in New York as an underage prostitute. When she’s sent back home, she hopes she can keep the secret of her old life as she tries to adjust to her new one.
Well, although I didn’t like Anna very much, I completely accept the worldbuilding. I know teenagers run away all the time, or are kidnapped, or otherwise forced into prostitution. It happens, and pretending it doesn’t isn’t helping anyone, least of all the children affected. So since this was a contemporary novel set in what I can only assume must be the ‘real world’, I accept the worldbuilding. No problems with that at all.
Anna was a very difficult character for me to like and even understand, especially in the beginning of the novel. She carries around this ‘teenage prostitute’ thing like she’s the only girl who lost her virginity young, was raped, or had a bad home life. And I get that her neighbourhood and school are both meant to be ‘good’ – but with an abusive father and a next-door neighbour with deep troubles of his own, and not one but two girls at school being shamed and controlled for sex, you’d think she’s open her eyes are realise that she’s not the only victim, that her strict parents weren’t the end of the world, and that basically she brought all her troubles on herself by her bad behaviour. I know she tries to blame other people, and yes what happened to her is simply awful, but she’s so superior to all the other kids at school, she’s such a martyr, she’s convinced she’s the only broken kid in the high school. One in five teen girls are sexually abused and almost half of sexually active teen girls lose their virginity at age 13-14.
Anna did manage to redeem herself when she handled a difficult situation and didn’t let girl hate bring her down. I did end up liking her, even if she did continue to victim-blame herself. I enjoyed seeing her eyes open and come to the realisation that not everything was her fault and that horrible people took advantage of her, and I liked seeing her relationship with her mother slowly repair itself.
Anna’s relationship with Jackson was so lukewarm I don’t even know where to begin. I appreciate Trombley writing a hot nerdy guy with thick glasses but I didn’t appreciate it when she referred to him as ‘too attractive for true geekiness’, as if there’s a) such a thing as fake geeks and b) the ‘true’ ones can’t be hot. Anna likes Jackson because he’s cute and doesn’t know her secret, but we have no idea why Jackson shows an interest in Anna. Their relationship fizzled under the radar and I’m pretty sure Jackson was only there so Anna could redeem herself, or maybe show that she wasn’t the disgusting whore she kept referring to herself as. If Jackson thought she was beautiful, maybe she really was.
Anna’s other friendships with Jen and Alex seemed similarly one dimensional and I didn’t feel any connecton.
Funnily enough, the one high school kid whose connection I did feel was Marissa. I love reformed bad guys, so I really liked it when Anna entered into an alliance with Marissa and became ‘frenemies’.
While I appreciated Anna coming to terms with the fact there were some adults she could trust, I would have liked to have seen what ended up happening to her father, seeing as how her mother was unemployed and they were supported by his paycheck.
The book is very anti-sex, not just for underage prostitutes but for any women who would dare degrade herself. Out of the two other sexually active girls in the novel, one had been raped and the other was being blackmailed by a video. Funnily enough, it wasn’t that Anna lost her virginity at age 12, it was that she’d slept with a large number of men, largely unwillingly that caused her the most shame. Jackson was held up as the epitome of sweet nice guys and he was a virgin.
Jackson thinks prostitution is worse even than rape or murder, which is an interesting thing for a cop’s kid to think. Most cops seem to understand that pimps take advantage of their hookers, although it’s the girls who usually take the fall. I also didn’t understand why immediately when Anna went back to school, all the ‘mean’ kids instantly assumed she was a slut. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Young Adult literature, but new kids don’t tend to get hated on the very first day, do they? It just seemed really weird – and I think it was an excuse for Anna not to realise who was putting notes in her locker. If everyone was calling her a whore and was a suspect, the real culprit wasn’t revealed until it was too late.
I really struggled with the first half of this novel. Despite its fantastic premise, it didn’t really deliver what I thought it would. It was too busy being anti-sex and having Anna’s special snowflake syndrome to enjoy much of the first half. When Anna finally pulled her head in and started growing up it was much more enjoyable and I liked watching her work together with a group of female friends to take down a male bully, and the courtroom scene was good, although somewhat anti-climactic. All the kids in the school were already convinced she was a whore, so when it was confirmed there wasn’t any kind of reaction. I don’t know if I would recommend this book to anyone based on my own frustrations with reading it.