What Unbreakable Looks Like – 2 Star Review

What Unbreakable Looks Like

by Kate McLaughlin

Human trafficking is an ugly, but realistic topic within the United States. This novel follows a teenage girl who falls victim to this world. Poppy is learning how to become Lex once again, shedding the false identity her pimp had assigned to her and attempting to adjust to some semblance of normal teenage life. The reader follows Lex’s journey from the hotel, hospital, rehab, and back to normal day life. Her journey is not easy nor pretty, but the story itself is an important one to share. 

“It must be nice to live in a world where you don’t see the darkness in people.”

What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

While I loved the premise of this novel and the message it attempted to share with YA readers, I was left wanting. Transitions between scenes and key moments of Lex’s life were abrupt and left me frustrated. The first half of the book felt rushed from one scene to the next; I would’ve preferred the author allow the reader to sit in some of those moments longer and allowed the character development to breathe. The quick pace and repetitive re-traumatization Lex experienced felt harsh and unnecessary. I acknowledge that there are high rates of repeat victimization of rape victims and think many of the scenarios presented in this book are likely true. However, the way in which the scenes were executed and then followed up just didn’t do this topic justice. 

With Lex being a teenager, I was immensely interested in how she’d navigate the transition back into public school with her peers. In fact, I expected this part to be the climax of the novel and found myself forgiving the shot gun pace of the first part of the book so I could get to the heart of the story. However the hasty transitions continued and I was extremely disappointed that the author didn’t share Lex’s first day back to school. Instead the story, once again, skips to an immediate action scene involving traumatization. Lex does gain a couple friendships and experiences both awful and supporting moments from her classmates, but the main focus was on her relationship with a boy that mostly happened outside of the school setting. 

Going into a book with a heavy topic like this one, a reader expects to see and feel many unpleasant scenarios. The author wrote the trauma scenes bravely and candidly, but then held back on the internal processing of our main character after the fact. Lex would bounce between confidence and distressing outbursts that didn’t feel true to the character. I did like the overall message of the book which was hope, friendship, and the empowerment of moving from victim to activist. This story ended being a 2 star read for me, but I still hope to see more books further explore this topic in YA fiction. 

Thank you to Wednesday Books for asking me to be a part of the Blog Tour and providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewed by Coco

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