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Lex was taken – trafficked - and 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 and 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. Doe Lex was taken – trafficked - and 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 and 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 and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and 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, and 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 and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.


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Lex was taken – trafficked - and 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 and 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. Doe Lex was taken – trafficked - and 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 and 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 and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and 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, and 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 and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

30 review for What Unbreakable Looks Like

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ꮗ€♫◗☿ ❤️ ilikebooksbest.com ❤️

    Harrowing tale of recovery from being trafficked as a sexual slave! This was a gritty realistic tale of a girl who was a survivor of human trafficking in the United States, and it was a very interesting book as well as a good story. When I think of human trafficking, I usually picture American girls who are snatched either here or while traveling abroad and immediately sent to another foreign country never to be heard from again. Either that or Eastern European or Asian women who are tricked into Harrowing tale of recovery from being trafficked as a sexual slave! This was a gritty realistic tale of a girl who was a survivor of human trafficking in the United States, and it was a very interesting book as well as a good story. When I think of human trafficking, I usually picture American girls who are snatched either here or while traveling abroad and immediately sent to another foreign country never to be heard from again. Either that or Eastern European or Asian women who are tricked into coming to the US and told they only have to work off their travel fees but end up working forever. However, what happens to the girl in this book apparently happens to a lot of young girls in the U.S. Her name was Alexa and she was tricked by a guy named Mitch, a friend of her mothers boyfriend into thinking he was her boyfriend, then after a bit she moved in with him. Her mother was a drunk so she didn’t care when Alexa stopped attending school and moved in with this older guy. Then after a few weeks he tells her that he owes a friend a lot of money and the friend will kill him, but the friend wants her so if she has sex with the friend everything will be ok. Soon after that, Mitch has her addicted to drugs and is her pimp and moves her into a motel with other girls just like her. Three years later the cops bust into the motel and Alexa, now known as Poppy is free. Her Aunt wants to take her and provide a home for her, but it is hard for her to trust anything. The book is written very well in that it goes from her new life to flashbacks of her old life showing how hard it is to move into a new life after being where she was.. Of course it is hard to trust any man after being used as a sex object by hundreds if not more than a thousand men in those three years, all while under the age of eighteen. Some of them were even cops. She is afraid to even trust her aunt’s husband at first, she was positive he would try to come into her bedroom at night. It’s understandable really when your father leaves at a young age and your mother never cared about you, then the one person you thought was your Knight in shining armor turns out to be a pimp who sells you to slimy men and beats you if you try to say no. When Lex and the other girls are picked up by the cops, Mitch is not found because he was tipped off by his friends in the police force. So he was still out there and Alexa’s mother was calling her Aunt because her boyfriend, Frank is friends with Mitch and they want her back with Mitch. It is a tough way back for this girl but a pretty awesome story of recovery and getting to a place where she can accept what happened and be at peace with herself. She has help from a therapist, a cop, a few friends, a puppy and she goes through a few trials before getting on the right path. The book kept my interest throughout the entire length and the characters were well written and fully developed. I liked all of them in this story. The fact that Poppy/Alexa was held less than 30 minutes from her mother’s house was eye opening to me. I really like the way her new romance develops very slowly out of friendship after the first boyfriend she has turns out to be a completely terrible mistake from start to finish and bad for her in every way possible. It all seemed extremely realistic like something that could really happen or have been based on a true story. I voluntarily read & reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Blog|Goodreads|Facebook|Instagram|Twitter|BookBub

  2. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr... A gritty, honest, and raw story that I couldn’t put down! “We never asked for this” This book opens as police raid a motel; rescuing girls trafficked by a local pimp. The motel is both a prison and a home for Poppy (Lex) and Mitch Anderson's other “nighttime girls”. The noise wakes Lex who then wakes Ivy. They both rush to get dressed. When the cops break the door down, the girls try to run but they don’t make it far. The p My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr... A gritty, honest, and raw story that I couldn’t put down! “We never asked for this” This book opens as police raid a motel; rescuing girls trafficked by a local pimp. The motel is both a prison and a home for Poppy (Lex) and Mitch Anderson's other “nighttime girls”. The noise wakes Lex who then wakes Ivy. They both rush to get dressed. When the cops break the door down, the girls try to run but they don’t make it far. The police tell them they aren’t in trouble and take them to the hospital. Mitch liked to name his girls after flowers. Alexa Grace (Lex) was given the name Poppy. Lex tells the police that Mitch Anderson is her boyfriend. Then they ask about Frank. Frank is her mother’s boyfriend. He’s also one of Mitch's associates. The police want to send her to rehab for trafficked girls. But after that where will she go? She can’t go home to her mother and HIM. Where do all unwanted kids go? But it turns out; someone DOES want Lex, her Aunt Krys and her husband, Jamal. When she sees her Aunt Krys the tears finally come… Ivy wants Lex to leave the hospital with her. Lex is ready to go but then she sees her Aunt. She has to make a choice. Ivy or her Aunt? Lex or Poppy? She just wants someone to tell her everything is going to be okay. She wants to believe that her aunt and uncle really want her. She worries she’ll disappoint them or they’ll disappoint her. She worries they’ll discover she’s not worth it. Lex begins to settle in but it’s not easy. She makes some new friends and soon she even has a boyfriend. But then she is horribly betrayed once again. At first, she's ashamed. But another part of her wants to fight! She wants to help others see that this is NOT okay. Will Lex find the strength to stay? Will she be able to confront her past and the monsters in it? Wow! What an incredible debut novel! Gut-wrenching and emotional, it’s going to stay with me for a very long time. A great story with amazing characters. This novel may be a tough read for some as it deals with many significant and relevant issues like sexual assault, violence, and human trafficking. We need Detectives like Detective Marianne Willis. We also need fewer people who look the other way. The story is told from Lex’s point of view. Alternating between the past and the present, we learn about Lex’s life with her mother and what she endured as Poppy. Insightful and realistic, this was an incredibly moving and powerful story of survival. I'd like to thank the publisher for providing me with a copy of this novel. All opinions are my own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    ETA: My amazing friend Leelynn read and reviewed this book recently and had such important things to say about it, so please check her review out, too. Given that sex trafficking is such an under-discussed topic that affects so many teens around the world, What Unbreakable Looks Like had endless amounts of potential to be a new favorite for me. I love when authors are willing to tackle dark, important topics such as this — when it's done well. Unfortunately, this story was quite the disappointing ETA: My amazing friend Leelynn read and reviewed this book recently and had such important things to say about it, so please check her review out, too. Given that sex trafficking is such an under-discussed topic that affects so many teens around the world, What Unbreakable Looks Like had endless amounts of potential to be a new favorite for me. I love when authors are willing to tackle dark, important topics such as this — when it's done well. Unfortunately, this story was quite the disappointing reading experience. First of all, the writing wasn't a good fit for me. The dialogue is clunky and unnatural, the pacing is off (and incredibly rushed in the beginning), and the characters feel flat. Lex as a narrator is immensely frustrating because, despite all of these terrible and difficult things happening to her, her emotional responses feel wholly absent. She talks about reacting in certain ways but there's never any weight to it. It's honestly rare that I've met a main character who struck me as so singularly one-dimensional. The other issue I had was the author's usage of AAVE. A bit of slang is one thing, but when your narrator changes into a weird bastardization of AAVE every time she wants to make herself sound "tough" or edgy, I'm really uncomfortable with that — especially when it's to such a degree that it feels like a caricature, as is the case here. I saw so few other reviewers fret over the depiction of AAVE & Black characters in this book that I almost second-guessed myself, but I know when something feels wrong in my gut. I have more to say that can't be said here, so if you'd like to read the rest of my thoughts, you can do that HERE on my blog.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    I was a little nervous going into this. A YA novel about a sex trafficking victim seems like something that can go off the rails pretty easily. The subject matter feels like it might be beyond teenagers, but aren’t teenagers the ones who are more susceptible to being trafficked? Maybe I was initially apprehensive, but it turns out that Kate McLaughlin was more than up to the task. What Unbreakable Looks Like skillfully walks a fine line between being honest about harsh realities without being exp I was a little nervous going into this. A YA novel about a sex trafficking victim seems like something that can go off the rails pretty easily. The subject matter feels like it might be beyond teenagers, but aren’t teenagers the ones who are more susceptible to being trafficked? Maybe I was initially apprehensive, but it turns out that Kate McLaughlin was more than up to the task. What Unbreakable Looks Like skillfully walks a fine line between being honest about harsh realities without being exploitive. The story is about Alexa’s survival and coping after being freed from sexual slavery as a teenager. She’s not okay yet, and it can be difficult to read even a fictional account of the kind of turmoil that girls who have been through this experience while just trying to live a normal life. What this is not like is My Dark Vanessa. It might be easy to make those comparisons, but Alexa is in a very different place than Vanessa was. My Dark Vanessa is, in part, the reflections of an adult woman decades after her abuse. She has rationalized away much of what happened to her and reading some of the excuses she comes up with on behalf of her abuser can be stomach-turning. Alexa and Vanessa have both been repeatedly sexually assaulted, blame themselves, were initially failed by those who were supposed to protect them and will have to bear some of this burden into adulthood, but the key difference here is Alexa got help. She got help she asked for and help she didn’t. Vanessa was left to fall through the cracks and try to put herself back together. That’s where I think this book can do a lot of good for a YA audience. If they’re experiencing abuse or have feelings similar to Alexa’s, they can watch her come out of it better than when she started. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Vanessa’s story is not a happy one, because she still hasn’t completely surfaced from the hold her abuser had on her. In Unbreakable, we get to see a girl not just survive, but begin to thrive. Alexa has surrogate parents that love & understand her, best friends that are loyal to her, school administrators who listen to her and advocates in her local police department. I can only imagine what Vanessa would have been like if she had that type of support system. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this novel uplifting. It’s hard to feel good while reading about child abuse and rape. But there’s a level of comeuppance and hope here that can be difficult to hold on to in books about sexual violence. McLaughlin is letting her readers know that yes, it does get better, in a way that feels real and attainable. I know it’s probably going to get banned from a lot of schools, but I hope this book is still able to make its way into the hands of teenagers who need and want to read it. *Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & Netgalley for an advance copy!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sandra ~ ♥ Cross My Heart ♥

    What Unbreakable Looks Like is a raw, gut-wrenching, emotional story of a young girl's long road back to "normal" after being rescued along with a few other girls from a dirty, seedy motel room - all victims of sex traffickers who kept them drugged and in sexual slavery. Alexa spends a few weeks in rehab . . . every minute spent looking for a chance to run back to the only life she knows. She's skeptical of her aunt's offer of a home, family, and love wondering what she and her husband want in r What Unbreakable Looks Like is a raw, gut-wrenching, emotional story of a young girl's long road back to "normal" after being rescued along with a few other girls from a dirty, seedy motel room - all victims of sex traffickers who kept them drugged and in sexual slavery. Alexa spends a few weeks in rehab . . . every minute spent looking for a chance to run back to the only life she knows. She's skeptical of her aunt's offer of a home, family, and love wondering what she and her husband want in return. Alex's pimp has conditioned her to accept that she's the blame for all that happened to her, and she doesn't deserve anything better. He broke her will and spirit. Or did he? The story that unfolds is one of a survivor of human trafficking digging deep, finding the will, strength, and desire to reclaim control of her life. Through present chapters, readers see and feel Alex's struggle to cope with regular everyday life. She doesn't know how to trust, refuses to allow herself to feel, and is betrayed once again when she finally does. Her loss of innocence, self-blame, and frail self-esteem are evident through often-too-real scenes that broke my heart. Through past chapters, readers experience a little of the horrifying daily life of a young girl trapped in a life of drugs, alcohol, and sex slavery often betrayed by the ones who should be their protectors. I applaud the author for handling the subject with blunt honesty while affording these victims the care they deserve. The way these girls are beat down and broken beyond repair is absolutely heart wrenching. Unfortunately, most are unable to make it out alive and if they do, the road to full recovery is long, hard, and treacherous. Many relapse to the only life they identify with or commit suicide. What Unbreakable Looks Like is a character driven story that focuses on Alex as step by step she dares to hope, dream and finally reclaim her life. The story is brilliantly rendered through the voice of Alex as she reacclimates to living in a safe place, attending high school, making friends - all the normal teenage things that were stolen from her. Hopefully, this story will open some eyes to the danger lurking around young girls as well as boys - from small towns to big cities - from family friends to boyfriends to evil strangers - no one description fits all sex traffickers. I hope this message of hope reaches those struggling to overcome their pain, grief, and addictions. What Unbreakable Looks Like is the story of a girl who refused to be broken. One who survived and reclaimed a full, rich life. One who could finally look at her own face in a mirror and think, "This is what unbreakable looks like!" While this book is dark, raw, and graphic, its message is one of hope, light, and love. I believe all readers will benefit from reading it. Highly Recommended. *Many thanks to Minotaur Books for an arc of this book. #Minotaur Influencers **This review will appear on Cross My Heart Reviews on June 24, 2020 during the Blog Tour.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ari

    Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon Thank you NetGalley and Wednesday Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine. "Once you lose control, it's easier to let other people take it." After reading the synopsis for this book, I knew that it was going to be moving. Starting with a whisper and building to a crescendo, the voice of Lex is a beautiful and heartbreaking thing. This is a young woman who has seen and felt everything horrible that can be inflicted upon a person, and survived. Bu Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon Thank you NetGalley and Wednesday Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine. "Once you lose control, it's easier to let other people take it." After reading the synopsis for this book, I knew that it was going to be moving. Starting with a whisper and building to a crescendo, the voice of Lex is a beautiful and heartbreaking thing. This is a young woman who has seen and felt everything horrible that can be inflicted upon a person, and survived. But the most amazing thing about her is that no matter how much she thinks that the life has been beaten out of her, no matter the scars that mark her inside and out, she still has hope. Lex's hope is what eventually brings her alive. When I started reading, I began with the impression that the character of Alexa was going through the motions. There was a lot of almost rushing through the paces: she was broken out of the motel alongside the other girls by the police raid, she was taken to the hospital, her aunt was brought in, she was taken to a house of rehabilitation... It was fact after fact, and it seemed as if not enough introspection was being inserted to make me connect. But as I started to get to know Lex, I saw the brilliance of this. Alexa compartmentalizes her emotions and thoughts. She trained herself to do this in order to hold on to the scrap of life that she had. If she feels too much, or at all sometimes, she falls apart. Her entrance into a new home, and her introduction to new friends and a new family, is what finally gets her to open up little by little. It's something that happens at a slow and tenuous progress, and the writing shifts perfectly because of this. Suddenly Lex's thoughts, ideas and feelings begin to make more of an appearance. And as fragile as they are, we get to know her better. That's when we really begin to feel the trauma and tragedy that is her life. From here on out, the story won me over. After the torture that Lex is put through, the people that are put into her life are a gift. And I certainly understand her mistrust at first. It's all too good to be true, that's the only thing that she has been taught to know. Her sweet aunt Krys and kind uncle Jamal, the new friend Elsa from across the street, and the boy who becomes her protector, Zack. These four people are the main front that stand by Alexa, and the patience and support that they lend her is so good in its simplicity, without any restrictions or anything expected in return, that in a way it rekindles your belief that there really are good people out there. And it's a little sad, this realization that you have alongside the lead. I think that, due to the nature of the abuse that Lex goes through, her relationship with Zack is one of the most important ones in the novel. Their attachment, as it grows, is such a beautiful but frail thing to behold. And again, because of what Alexa is accustomed to, she purposefully attempts to destroy that more than once. This is what she knows, this is what she is accustomed to and what she believes—despite what she really wants—that Zack is after: to use her. Every time that that boy pushed her away, while remaining by her, was not just a point in his favor but a new way for Lex to realize that she deserves more, and that she is not going to be the broken thing that she believes herself to be. Despite her initial reluctance, she wants to not just survive, but to live. Overall, What Unbreakable Looks Like is very character driven. Through this cast and their development, the story grows and reaches its satisfying finish. There are moments when justice is certainly served, but there is also a lot of loss along the way. I cried a few times—this novel is going to make you cry or at least get the reader teary-eyed, it's almost impossible for someone not to be sentimental—and there were moments when it was difficult to read through the things that not only Poppy went through, but the other girls as well. In the end, however, it's all worth it. Inspirational, raw, difficult to put down and poignant, this novel stays with you well after you finish.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kendall

    Wow... what a punch to the gut. Kate McLaughlin delivers a raw and powerful story about sex trafficking, drug use, prostitution, and sexual assault. I will say this is not the easiest book to read but I thoroughly enjoyed this so much. Lex was taken and is now in the life known as "poppy." Lex was rescued at a hotel with a number of other girls. Lex was taken in by her aunt and uncle and is trying to survive as Lex and not "Poppy." Kate McLaughlin truly approaches the topic of sex trafficking wit Wow... what a punch to the gut. Kate McLaughlin delivers a raw and powerful story about sex trafficking, drug use, prostitution, and sexual assault. I will say this is not the easiest book to read but I thoroughly enjoyed this so much. Lex was taken and is now in the life known as "poppy." Lex was rescued at a hotel with a number of other girls. Lex was taken in by her aunt and uncle and is trying to survive as Lex and not "Poppy." Kate McLaughlin truly approaches the topic of sex trafficking without holding anything back... and I respect the hell out of this author for writing about such a hard topic. We slowly see Lex's story unfold about her horrors of being trafficked and the reality of the aftermath. It truly was so heartbreaking, beautiful, and emotional to see Lex work through her demons and pain through a world of darkness. I wanted to scream with Lex, cry with Lex, smile with Lex, hug Lex, and love her through this entire novel. McLaughlin's talent shines across the pages of this novel that will haunt you in your sleep. This book will not leave me for a long time and I can't recommend enough to others. This isn't for the faint of heart and are some graphic descriptions of sexual assault and trafficking but I'm hoping it will leave a mark on your heart like it did mine. 5 stars! Thank you so much to Netgalley and St. Martin's press for the arc in exchange for an honest review. Pub day: 6/23/20 Published to GR: 2/2/20

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    One of my absolute favorite reads of the year This amazing, heartbreaking and powerful book blew my mind. It tugged at my heartstrings and will stay with me for quite some time. This is a must-read, everyone. Lex is human trafficked and becomes Poppy, kept in a hotel with other girls with flower names. But then the girls are rescued, and Poppy must try to become Lex again. She moves in with her aunt and uncle—a place where’s she’s truly safe for the first time in a long time. But she’s been so hur One of my absolute favorite reads of the year This amazing, heartbreaking and powerful book blew my mind. It tugged at my heartstrings and will stay with me for quite some time. This is a must-read, everyone. Lex is human trafficked and becomes Poppy, kept in a hotel with other girls with flower names. But then the girls are rescued, and Poppy must try to become Lex again. She moves in with her aunt and uncle—a place where’s she’s truly safe for the first time in a long time. But she’s been so hurt and broken and has a hard time trusting or believing she deserves anything good in her life. When she’s sexually assaulted by her boyfriend, Lex has to reckon with the fact that this isn’t something she deserves because of her past. This book broke my heart and then patched it back together. McLaughlin writes Lex in such a way that she jumps off the page—a realistic, amazing, and wonderful heroine learning to be in charge of her own story. She covers human trafficking in its stark reality and yet this story is hopeful and tender. I loved the character of Lex, as well as her aunt, Krys. Knowing that Lex has been conditioned to think she deserves to be treated badly just breaks your heart--thinking sex is her only power, all she's worth. The way McLaughlin shows how human trafficking has destroyed Lex and distorted her self-image is one of the most powerful things I've read in ages. This book blew me away. All the stars. Thanks to Wednesday Books for my copy in return for an unbiased review. You can support indie bookstores and buy a copy of this book here. Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ PaperBackSwap ~ Smashbomb

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. This is one of those raw, gets right down to the core of your soul, welcome to my emotional rollercoaster type of books. It's also a very difficult read that presents a lot of very heavy subjects( like rape, slut-shaming, sexual abuse). It is also the first novel(for me) that has dived into the subject of human trafficking. Our main character, Alexa has escaped this life and the book carries us through t Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. This is one of those raw, gets right down to the core of your soul, welcome to my emotional rollercoaster type of books. It's also a very difficult read that presents a lot of very heavy subjects( like rape, slut-shaming, sexual abuse). It is also the first novel(for me) that has dived into the subject of human trafficking. Our main character, Alexa has escaped this life and the book carries us through the process that she goes through in order to move on from her experience. There were so many wonderful characters and there were plenty of villains, too. I feel like I have so much to say but I cannot fully express how greatly affected I am ever reading this book. If this isn't one of the books nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in 2020, I will be very very disappointed. Also, that book cover is gorgeous! Goodreads review published 19/05/20 Expected Publication Date 23/06/20

  10. 5 out of 5

    PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

    ***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE by Kate McLaughlin in exchange for my honest review.*** Reading the first page of WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE, I felt a rare tingle in my stomach letting my know I was reading something special. A few chapters in, I realized WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE might be one of my all time favorite books. Kate McLaughlin blew me away with this special, poignant story of Alexa, a teenager trafficked, now living with h ***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE by Kate McLaughlin in exchange for my honest review.*** Reading the first page of WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE, I felt a rare tingle in my stomach letting my know I was reading something special. A few chapters in, I realized WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE might be one of my all time favorite books. Kate McLaughlin blew me away with this special, poignant story of Alexa, a teenager trafficked, now living with her aunt and uncle. Lexie’s pitch perfect voice oozed distrusted and pain as she slowly healed and learned to love without abuse. I loved the support Lex received from the police officer, her teachers and principal and friends and hoped that in real life, trafficking survivors have the same support system. WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE should be required reading for teens to teach consent, illustrate bullying/slut-shaming and how to support our friends and family who have survived trauma. I know I’ll reread WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE again, like I do with all my favorite books.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)

    4.5/5 Mitch is a pimp and makes his living by seducing teenage girls and grooming them to become sex workers. Housing them in a trashy motel, men (and sometimes women), roll through and have their way with the girl of their choosing. Poppy is one such girl - introduced to Mitch through her mother's boyfriend and ultimately given over to him by her mother in exchange for fuel for her alcohol addiction. When the motel is raided by police, Poppy and the other girls are taken to a nearby hospital to 4.5/5 Mitch is a pimp and makes his living by seducing teenage girls and grooming them to become sex workers. Housing them in a trashy motel, men (and sometimes women), roll through and have their way with the girl of their choosing. Poppy is one such girl - introduced to Mitch through her mother's boyfriend and ultimately given over to him by her mother in exchange for fuel for her alcohol addiction. When the motel is raided by police, Poppy and the other girls are taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for STIs, malnourishment, and any other wounds that have been inflicted upon them. Most of the girls are eager to get back to the life - they don't know anything else and the abuse runs so deep, many are likely suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. But Poppy, Alexa in her real life, has an aunt who wants her and may actually love her. When Poppy's roommate and friend Ivy breaks out of the hospital, Poppy chooses to stay behind, and to leave Poppy behind as well. Moving in with her Aunt Krys and Krys' husband Jamal in suburban Connecticut is an adjustment. After over a year in the life, Alexa is untrusting and feels dirty and broken. The scars on her body and the scars in her heart run deep and she often wonders if she'll ever be able to escape her past. She has to acclimate to a scheduled day, home cooked meals, adults who care about what she wears and how she speaks, making friends, and going back to school. She slowly builds trust in two neighborhood kids who become friends, and the love and patience Krys and Jamal repeatedly demonstrate starts to crack through Alexa's tough exterior. But with Mitch still out there, abusing and trafficking more young women, Alexa has to choose every day to stay sober and to stay out of the life. Mitch and her mother's boyfriend will snatch Alexa and bring her back at the first opportunity. Even Ivy has fled back to Mitch and begs Alexa to come back with her. As Alexa learns that she was one of many girls trafficked in the United States, she has to choose how to proceed with the rest of her life. She can go back to Mitch and numb herself with drugs, possibly end up dead like so many other girls in her situation. She can stay broken and fragile, defined by her past. She can choose to be a victim, or even a survivor. What Alexa learns is, she finally has a choice, and a choice is a powerful thing. A beautiful story of overcoming the most challenging of circumstances, What Unbreakable Looks Like takes a hard look at human trafficking in our own backyard. We see how johns are able to seduce or kidnap young women, manipulate them, strip their identities and emotions, and control their entire being. We also see some of the emotional impact and post-traumatic stress suffered by trafficked women and their loved ones. Powerful, raw, and extremely emotive, this novel has a profound effect on its readers. Trigger warnings: Rape, violence against women and juveniles, human trafficking, sexual assault, drug use. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press (Wednesday Books) for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Schizanthus Nerd

    He names them after flowers. Daisy. Ivy. Iris. This is Poppy’s story. She’s one of the lucky ones, if you can call her that, considering all of the trauma she has experienced. He called her Poppy. Her real name is Alexa. Am I ever going to feel like a whole person again? If you are on the fence, for whatever reason, about how crucial having supportive people around you after trauma is, this is the book for you. I don’t know how extraordinary Lex’s experiences of trafficking are, although I susp He names them after flowers. Daisy. Ivy. Iris. This is Poppy’s story. She’s one of the lucky ones, if you can call her that, considering all of the trauma she has experienced. He called her Poppy. Her real name is Alexa. Am I ever going to feel like a whole person again? If you are on the fence, for whatever reason, about how crucial having supportive people around you after trauma is, this is the book for you. I don’t know how extraordinary Lex’s experiences of trafficking are, although I suspect they’re fairly typical. What is extraordinary about Lex’s story is the support she is given from so many people once she’s finally rescued from the life. The matter of fact way that the events at the beginning of the story are told matched Lex’s flat affect, a result of the trauma she’s experienced, the withdrawal she’s currently experiencing and the dissociation that has helped her survive. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the portrayal of the survivors of human trafficking but given how much I could relate to the trauma impacts of sexual assault that were explored through Lex’s thoughts, feelings and actions, I have to assume they were also pretty much spot on. This might sound silly (they’re characters in a book, after all) but if you have experienced sexual assault, take what you need from Krys. Take what you need from Jamal, Zack, Elsa, Detective Willis and Dr. Lisa. Each of them, over the course of this book, will say something that will resonate with you. Something you wish someone had said to you. Something you wish you were worthy of hearing (trust me; you are). Personally, I’m trying to figure out a way to adopt Krys or vice versa; I know I need to hear what she’s got to say. “Honey, you’re here. Sometimes that’s all the strength you need.” If you’ve experienced sexual assault and haven’t been believed or have needed to find a way to heal without the love and support of the people who should be there for you, I’m so sorry. You deserve to be believed. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to be loved, safely. You didn’t ask for it, whatever ‘it’ may be, to happen to you and it was not your fault. “You did nothing wrong. I’m going to keep telling you that until you believe it.” So, this probably reads like a PSA at this point but, even if there is only a slim chance that someone reading this needs to hear that what happened to them wasn’t their fault, I need to say it. Prepare yourself for some ugly crying as you hear Lex’s story. If you’re like me, some tears will come as a result of what has been done to her but even more will fall because you’re just so damn proud of her resilience. I was so still as I read this book that I thought I could almost hear my heart breaking at the same time I felt it. Did I have “Zack is too good to be true” on repeat in my head as I read? Absolutely! Do I hope there really are Zack’s in the world? Do I ever! When books navigate as much potentially triggering content as this one does it can be difficult to figure out where the line should be drawn between enough information to show the gravity of the situation and graphic content whose only purpose seems to be the shock value. This book walked the line perfectly for me. I learned things about trafficking, particularly around how it can begin, that made my blood boil but the details that were provided, while obviously upsetting, felt necessary to the telling of Lex’s story. I’m leaving this story (for now) with the wannabe activist inside me trying to figure out the way I can best support people like Lex. Although I’m all sorts of sad and mad after having read Lex’s story, my takeaway is hope. Hope for healing. Hope for more people to understand how to support survivors. Hope that enough people will get riled up over human trafficking that, sooner rather than later, more people don’t experience Lex’s story firsthand. Content warnings include (view spoiler)[alcoholism, child pornography, death by suicide, domestic violence, drug use, human trafficking, mental health, miscarriage, racism (challenged), self harm, sexual assault, suicidal ideation and violence (hide spoiler)] . Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, for the opportunity to read this book. Blog - https://schizanthusnerd.com

  13. 5 out of 5

    ABookwormWithWine

    Wow! I don't know what I was expecting from What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin but it was so much more than I ever could have imagined. For a debut young adult novel What Unbreakable Looks Like sure hit me hard. I was laughing and had tears in my eyes throughout the entire book and it was a real work of art. I don't think human trafficking gets talked about in books enough as it is but having a survivor story is just even better. This book is raw and emotional and will make your hear Wow! I don't know what I was expecting from What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin but it was so much more than I ever could have imagined. For a debut young adult novel What Unbreakable Looks Like sure hit me hard. I was laughing and had tears in my eyes throughout the entire book and it was a real work of art. I don't think human trafficking gets talked about in books enough as it is but having a survivor story is just even better. This book is raw and emotional and will make your heart hurt, but it was also hopeful and helps you believe in healing. There are a lot of strong messages in here and I thought the way McLaughlin approached them was both straightforward and realistic. I think the story told in this novel is incredibly important, and it was definitely a quick read. I may be a 34-year-old woman, but I thought Lex was still very relatable and it was easy to form a connection to her. Even if you aren't a huge fan of YA I would still recommend checking out What Unbreakable Looks Like if you are up for a dark, gritty book that speaks up about something that isn't talked about enough. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance review copy of this book via NetGalley, all opinions are my own.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE is a very dark young adult novel. It focuses on a young woman named Alexa (Lex) and her assimilation back into society after being sex trafficked by her stepfather’s friend. Through rehab and her aunt’s guardianship, Lex learns to try and put the past behind her. WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE really guts the reader emotionally, so it can allow you to build yourself up with Lex by your side. In a weird sense, this book shows a side of hope in an environment that has ravi WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE is a very dark young adult novel. It focuses on a young woman named Alexa (Lex) and her assimilation back into society after being sex trafficked by her stepfather’s friend. Through rehab and her aunt’s guardianship, Lex learns to try and put the past behind her. WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE really guts the reader emotionally, so it can allow you to build yourself up with Lex by your side. In a weird sense, this book shows a side of hope in an environment that has ravishingly preyed on women for years. I don’t normally read YA novels, but this one will change you emotionally. If you can get through the triggers mentioned above, I highly recommend you reading this cathartic book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    JP

    Loved it! It was difficult but not to much. This is a very serious, important subject. It’s happening right under our noses and it makes me sick. I watched something about this on Netflix and cried almost the whole time. Very telling story about after someone gets rescued. I highly recommend it. This was a Netgalley ARC from the publisher and Ive given my honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell

    Sex trafficking is such an important issue and I'm really excited for this book!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Polly

    Strong CW: sex trafficking, rape, sexual abuse, child abuse, alcoholism "What if it never happens?" I ask. "What if I never feel whole again?" "Then maybe – like a lot of us – you'll have to find strength in being a little cracked." Poppy exists in a motel. She used to be Lex, but now she's Poppy, and under a fog of drugs and abuse, she is forced to have sex with whichever men her pimp sells her to. Until a police raid leads to her being taken in by her kindly aunt, and learning who Lex is, and whe Strong CW: sex trafficking, rape, sexual abuse, child abuse, alcoholism "What if it never happens?" I ask. "What if I never feel whole again?" "Then maybe – like a lot of us – you'll have to find strength in being a little cracked." Poppy exists in a motel. She used to be Lex, but now she's Poppy, and under a fog of drugs and abuse, she is forced to have sex with whichever men her pimp sells her to. Until a police raid leads to her being taken in by her kindly aunt, and learning who Lex is, and whether she can coexist with Poppy. This is not a light read. Parts of it are – it's a journey of recovery with huge elements of hope and progress along the way, but just as your heart will begin to swell with hope, things will inevitably crash down for a bit. Recovery is explored in many ways, including its ugly sides, of which there are many. This is listed as a YA book, and although the main character is a teenager, it really didn't feel like it to me. Not that it's not suitable for older teen readers, but just that I imagine it fitting the adult market better. A strong cast of supporting characters play a big part in making this book so human – Elsa and Zack both befriend Lex and have their own stories and history to explore too. Krys, Lex's aunt – along with her husband Jamal – create a homely, loving environment for Lex that warms the reader through the pages. Every reaction of Lex's throughout the story, even the "irrational" ones, are written in such an honest way that the reader lives them too – or at least as much as they can without any person experiences of the kind of trauma that she has experienced. One of my thoughts early on in the book was that it would make a strong television miniseries, and by the end of the book that thought stuck in my mind.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book is an incredibly hard read, but I think it's a necessary one. I feel like I need to know that everything in life is not only sunshines and rainbows, and to see the darkness in people, how bad it could get. I wasn't sure about how human trafficking could be brought in a YA book, but Kate McLaughlin explores the subject in all the right ways. I felt a roller-coaster of emotions while reading it, and I am so proud of Lex for facing her trauma and becoming this new version of herself that This book is an incredibly hard read, but I think it's a necessary one. I feel like I need to know that everything in life is not only sunshines and rainbows, and to see the darkness in people, how bad it could get. I wasn't sure about how human trafficking could be brought in a YA book, but Kate McLaughlin explores the subject in all the right ways. I felt a roller-coaster of emotions while reading it, and I am so proud of Lex for facing her trauma and becoming this new version of herself that is kicking ass. TW for human trafficking, sexual assault and violence. Many thanks to Wednesday Books and St. Martin's Press for the complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    alana ♡

    I want to burn down the world, but I’m too afraid to strike the match.” Going into this I knew it was going to be a tough read just based off the premise but WHEW this was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. While I do think is book can be powerful for some it is most definitely not going to be for everyone largely because of the topic but also because of how raw and real this story is. Nothing is sugar coated and there are plenty of tough scenes with graphic details/descriptions of Lex I want to burn down the world, but I’m too afraid to strike the match.” Going into this I knew it was going to be a tough read just based off the premise but WHEW this was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. While I do think is book can be powerful for some it is most definitely not going to be for everyone largely because of the topic but also because of how raw and real this story is. Nothing is sugar coated and there are plenty of tough scenes with graphic details/descriptions of Lex’s life while being trafficked so this is definitely the type of read you want to make sure won’t be triggering to you prior to picking it up. You can find a full list of the trigger warnings I’ve come across at the end of this review. What I Liked 📈 Character growth. There’s a whole lot of growth that happens in this book. Lex starts out skeptical of everyone and everything around her since she’s been let down by the people who are supposed to protect her and take care of her. So, when her Aunt Krys reaches out a helping hand she’s hesitant to take it. I really enjoyed seeing Lex slowly go from thinking that she’ll have to find a way to repay her family for something as silly as buying her a new comforter to realizing that she does deserve to be happy and loved despite what happened to her. There were a few moments that this actually made me want to shed a tear or two. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Lex’s support group. I don’t know what it feels like to be sexually assaulted or sex trafficked and thank God for that. But I do know how it feels to come out of an unimaginable trauma and feel like everyone suddenly looks at you like you’re a fragile piece of glass or a ticking time bomb. To see Lex’s family and new friends treat Lex like a normal human being warmed my heart. Sometimes the best support doesn’t come from the people who expect you to spill your guts about every last thing that you feel, but from the people that know you’ve been hurt, love you anyway, will listen if you need, but don’t act like their walking on eggshells to be around you. So again, that definitely got to me. 🔚 Hopeful ending. I love when books that tackle very heavy topics don’t always have this concrete set in stone ending. Lex’s future is certainly much brighter and hopeful after being rescued from sex trafficking and she’s moved on to making new new friends and having her first normal/healthy relationship with a boy. She has so many options laid in front of her as to where her future can take her and I enjoy how you don’t always need to know which door the character chooses – just that they’re finally in a place where they can heal and grow from their prior traumas. What I Didn’t Like ❌ Use of AAVE and the N word. This made me – a white reader – incredibly uncomfortable so I can only imagine how startling and hurtful this could be towards Black readers. The author uses AAVE in the beginning of the story and basically any other time Lex comes in contact with the girls of her past. It was used in away to make the girls seem“tougher” if you will and then just disappears as Lex starts to fall into the swing of a more normal life. As for the use of the N word (hard ‘r’ )….there is absolutely no reason it needs to be included in this book. I don’t know if the author thought it was okay because it was coming from a Black character trying to prove a point – but this is fiction and just wholly unnecessary, disgusting, and wrong. If it wasn’t so close to the end of of the book I would have DNF’ed because of the disgusting and degrading manner it was used in. The whole situation just felt gross and wrong to the book. 🖊 Writing. The pacing and just overall writing technique used in this book didn’t seem to mesh well together. The book starts off fast paced and it quickly slows down, then would speed up again, slow down, and repeat. Between Lex being rescued, going to rehab, meeting new friends, having two relationships, being sexually assaulted again and sending the boys to trial, her pimp getting put on trial, and girls being murdered there truly a whole lot going on. On top of that the story goes back and forth between the present and Lex’s past and that made for a very jarring reading experience. I hope that it was just because my copy of this book wasn’t finished but there was no indication whatsoever with the shifts in time so it had me rereading paragraphs over and over again because it made absolutely no sense until you realize it’s because we’ve suddenly moved back to the past or back to present. tw: sexual assault, rape, sex trafficking, self harm, mentions of suicide, alcoholism, pedophilia, parental abandonment, domestic violence, mention of miscarriage, murder, child abuse All in all, even though this was a difficult book to get through I do think that it did tell a powerful story about finding your voice after unimaginable trauma. If you think you can handle the trigger warnings mentioned above and bits of the story I didn’t like then this might be a book worth checking out. But again, I don’t think this book will be for everybody and that’s totally okay too. Thank you Wednesday Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour as well as sending me a review copy in exchange for a honest review! Blog | Twitter

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jypsy

    Thank you Wednesday Books for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own. What Unbreakable Looks Like By: Kate McLaughlin "This book contains depictions of human trafficking, sexual assault, and violence. Please proceed with caution if you have been affected by any of these issues." REVIEW ☆☆☆☆ "Who the hell wants to take in a seventeen year old who's been passed around and discarded like loose change?" Difficult. Uncomfortable. Hellish. I could go on Thank you Wednesday Books for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own. What Unbreakable Looks Like By: Kate McLaughlin "This book contains depictions of human trafficking, sexual assault, and violence. Please proceed with caution if you have been affected by any of these issues." REVIEW ☆☆☆☆ "Who the hell wants to take in a seventeen year old who's been passed around and discarded like loose change?" Difficult. Uncomfortable. Hellish. I could go on and on describing What Unbreakable Looks Like. Every negative adverb I could think of still would not do justice to this story. It begins with a rescue of our heroine, Lex, and several other girls from a shady hotel. These girls were taken from their families and held here as sexual objects used for making money. Freedom doesn't feel free to Lex. In the hospital, she actually misses her pimp, Mitch, and debates running back to him. Why? "Mitch was there for me when no one else was. He took care of me. He sold me. Beat me. Told me I was beautiful and said I was an ugly bitch. He said he loved me. Nobody else has ever said they love me." Lex is conditioned to believe lies because it's all she knows. Where will she go now? Her mother has given up parental rights. Fortunately, Aunt Krys, her mother's sister, arrives to take Lex home. First, there is a recovery house stay. Lex has zero trust in anyone because it's not possible that good will find her. In all aspects, Lex fundamentally believes she is unworthy of love, acceptance, family, or second chances. Restructuring her belief system and reprogramming her thought process is going to be a long difficult task. It begins in the recovery house for trafficked girls, where Lex is certain no one understands how she got her. "Sure I do. You're here. That means someone took you from your home, put you on your back, and let people rape you for money while they kept you as numb as possible. Am I wrong?" Lex sees that she is not alone. Good people who aren't lying do exist. She can have a loving family and a safe home A revelation. Lex lives this scary new life day by day as best she can. She goes to school like a normal girl. Lex never lets her guard down, and trust is a liquid concept, at best. "...part of me would prefer pain and death over this small shred of hope I'm hanging on to. Pain and death rarely let you down, but hope? Hope's a heartless bitch." It is ironically tragic that something from Lex's past does, in fact, return briefly. The difference lies in Lex's growth as a young woman. She is stronger than the girl who left that hotel. This time, she can, she will, help herself and not be a victim. Lex has been dehumanized, and shame followers her like a shadow. But, Lex has unknowingly become part of something much larger than herself, and a new path forward falls at her feet. No spoilers here, so I won't give details. "Some people think trafficking means you're taken far away from your home and your family. It's not true. The motel Mitch kept us in was only thirty minutes away from Mom's apartment." When I think about this, it is deeply disturbing. Any one of us could drive by a trafficking house and never know. Growing up I lived with my family of four across the street from a lovely family of five in a typical neighborhood. The girl across the street and I were friends in the same grade. I went to sleepovers. I was 13. One day, this family was just gone. A few months later, we learned that my friend was, in fact, being molested by her father. For years. Across the street. They were now on the run, but that's another story. Sexual trafficking is not an abstract idea of girls locked in a shipping container anymore. The horrors are closer than that. This book was beyond difficult to read, but it was important to me that I read it. As others have said, it's raw, unflinching, shocking and unapologetic about sexual trafficking. This book looks you straight in the eye and tells you things you'd rather not know. I understand that many people cannot or should not read What Unbreakable Looks Like. If you can and are willing, I recommend it for the sake of awareness and meaningful dialogue.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alyson Stone

    Book: What Unbreakable Looks Like Author: Kate McLaughlin Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars I would like to thank the publisher, Wednesday Books, for sending me an ARC. I’ve actually had this title for awhile now. I’m glad I read it when I did. I’ve been in the mood for a hard hitting book and this one had it for me. The why it was written and the way the characters were presented just hit me in all of the right places. I love how the recovery period wasn’t shown as something quick and easy, but rather w Book: What Unbreakable Looks Like Author: Kate McLaughlin Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars I would like to thank the publisher, Wednesday Books, for sending me an ARC. I’ve actually had this title for awhile now. I’m glad I read it when I did. I’ve been in the mood for a hard hitting book and this one had it for me. The why it was written and the way the characters were presented just hit me in all of the right places. I love how the recovery period wasn’t shown as something quick and easy, but rather we got to see the hardships and difficult things that went along with it. What I’m getting out is I like how the road back to a so called normal life isn’t always easy and that the scars may never heal. When most people think of human trafficking, they probably think of foreign countries. Kate doesn’t go there. She takes normal high school girl who finds herself in the life. We get to see how Alexa was pulled in. Not only that, but she could be the girl next door, she could be your best friend, you daughter. She’s the girl who everyone can relate to. This book will make people more aware of just how close to home this is and will maybe make them stop and think about these things before they judge. After all, you really don’t know what happened in someone’s life to make them get to this point. This book also plays into the fact that it is so important to have a good support system. Kate talks about how Alexa was one of the only girls who didn’t go back. Alexa had some family who was willing to take her int and make her feel wanted. Those who went back, didn’t have this or believed that they had no other choice, but to return to the life. I think that if Alexa hadn’t had this support system, then she probably would have gone back. We also get to see the ups and downs of trying to return to normal. Alexa goes through a lot of rough patches. We see bullying and her trying to move on. We get to see how she views herself and how this view of herself changes overtime. Like I said earlier, she is one of those characters that you can’t help but to fall in love with. You want her to be okay; you want her to get a second chance. You want her to find love and everything. However, the journey isn’t always easy. A lot of people will not go through what Alexa did, but everyone needs to heal at some point in their life. This book shows that it’s okay to take time to heal and to say that you’re not okay. There’s not a lot of books out there like this and I think that is why this book will be important. I’m also going to put out there that this book does have some triggers. Just read the summary people before you pick this one up. I do not recommend this for more sensitive readers and younger readers. Kate does not sugarcoat anything. I really enjoyed reading this one and I’m glad Wednesday Books recommended it to me. The release day is on June 23, 2020, so it is a bit away. Youtube: https://youtu.be/oEXF5Tp0t4U

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    What Unbreakable Looks Like was a heart wrenching punch to the gut. The topic of this novel is human trafficking. McLaughlin shows how young girls are sometimes seduced into bondage. "Mitch was there for me when no one else was. He took care of me. He sold me. Beat me. Told me I was beautiful and said I was an ugly bitch. He said he loved me . . . " I cried when I read these words. I cried knowing that there are girls out there living in dysfunctional homes who are willing to accept this kind of What Unbreakable Looks Like was a heart wrenching punch to the gut. The topic of this novel is human trafficking. McLaughlin shows how young girls are sometimes seduced into bondage. "Mitch was there for me when no one else was. He took care of me. He sold me. Beat me. Told me I was beautiful and said I was an ugly bitch. He said he loved me . . . " I cried when I read these words. I cried knowing that there are girls out there living in dysfunctional homes who are willing to accept this kind of "love" any kind of love. That they do not know their worth and have been neglected to the point that any attention is good attention. But McLaughlin also shows here that anybody can be trafficked and that this is happening right in our backyards in small town America. These men are predators; highly manipulative and skilled at grooming the young and impressionable. They have long arms and a lot of money backing these enterprises. In the book McLaughlin uses the website Stall313 to shine light on the real life fight to end online human trafficking. I have not been able to watch the documentary I am Jane Doe that inspired this book but I have viewed an interview with its director Mary Mazzio. I was utterly shocked by how deep this went and the responses of some politicians and judges. I found it frustrating that Backpage.com and other websites like it are able to use Section 230 as a legislative loophole to get around their complicity in human trafficking. Here is the link to that interview with the director of I Am Jane Doe, the film that inspired this book: Mary Mazzio Special thanks to Meghan Harrington at Wednesday Books, Kate McLaughlin and NetGalley for advanced access to this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    If you read the description for this novel, then you probably know if comes with trigger warnings. So, for posterity, trigger warnings for human trafficking, sexual assault, violence, and substance abuse. When I was offered the chance to review What Unbreakable Looks Like, I jumped on it since I assumed it would have a similar impact on me that Sadie by Courtney Summers did. I was not wrong. What Unbreakable Looks Like is a raw and unflinching look at human trafficking and the trauma it inflicts If you read the description for this novel, then you probably know if comes with trigger warnings. So, for posterity, trigger warnings for human trafficking, sexual assault, violence, and substance abuse. When I was offered the chance to review What Unbreakable Looks Like, I jumped on it since I assumed it would have a similar impact on me that Sadie by Courtney Summers did. I was not wrong. What Unbreakable Looks Like is a raw and unflinching look at human trafficking and the trauma it inflicts. What makes this novel stand out is its setting and main character. When most people think of human trafficking they may think about the seedy places in Europe or third world countries. What Unbreakable Looks Like presents readers with a young white girl in the United States recovering from being trafficked in the city she grew up in. What Unbreakable Looks Like has scenes that are difficult to read, but are never gratuitous. McLaughlin walks a fine line of heavily implying what’s happening to the main character without ever describing all the horrific details. So, if you’re worried about heavily descriptive scenes you don’t have to be. What Unbreakable Looks Like highlights the need for healthy coping mechanisms and a strong support system. McLaughlin doesn’t sugar coat the recovery process by allowing the main character, Lex, to adopt healthy coping mechanisms right away and heal. Instead, Lex stumbles often and if it weren’t for her support system she may have reverted to her life of being trafficked. This novel highlights the importance of a support system, but not just for individuals who have faced significant trauma. A good and healthy support system is important for any person regardless of their trauma. Overall, What Unbreakable Looks Like is a raw and unflinching look at human trafficking and its trauma. Human trafficking is not just a problem overseas, but right here in our own backyards. McLaughlin does not shy away from the horrific experiences these women experience. What Unbreakable Looks Like is definitely worth the read. *** I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alexx

    Oh, boy. This book! It was raw and gritty, heartbreaking, beautiful, and also hopeful! (I may or may not have cried) Full review will be posted soon as part of the What Unbreakable Looks Like Blog Tour! Thank you Wednesday Books for the e-arc! Find me elsewhere: Blog | Instagram | Twitter Oh, boy. This book! It was raw and gritty, heartbreaking, beautiful, and also hopeful! (I may or may not have cried) Full review will be posted soon as part of the What Unbreakable Looks Like Blog Tour! Thank you Wednesday Books for the e-arc! Find me elsewhere: Blog | Instagram | Twitter

  25. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Superspeed readers like me can read 150 - 200+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOL I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. Lex was taken – trafficked - and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old lif Superspeed readers like me can read 150 - 200+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOL I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. Lex was taken – trafficked - and 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 and 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 and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and 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, and 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 and learned to trust, not only others but in herself. You hear more and more each day about kids who answer ads online regarding work or thinking they met a great guy and fell in love with him online only to find themselves in a sex trafficking situation. I live near major highways where sex trafficking rings flourish in local, sleazy hotels - this isn't just a third world, second world, not our word problem - it is a problem on every single inch of the planet. (Maybe not on Antarctica...not that I want to sound flippant!) The book is expertly crafted, the characters are well fleshed out and the demons that Lex faces are scary, as they should be. Maybe this should be required reading now that social media has made this situation more of a reality - it is well written so it does not sound like a lecture but it does ring true as a warning. Teenager's parents should read this as well and make sure that their kids feel safe - such an important message from such an important book. This book could and should win tonnes of prizes and your book club should put it on their agenda and reading list. I was simply blown away. Buy this book. Read this book. Discuss this book. As for the cover ... I see the contrast behind the girl and the lips that look like poppies, as her pimp's name for her is Poppy, but I still hate the cover. Maybe instead of yellow, greys and blacks with the red?? Yellow is sunshine and happiness ... grey is despair.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Sedai of the Black Ajah🥀🐍

    Trigger warning - graphic scenes of sexual abuse, physical abuse, human trafficking. A raw, unflinching account of a high school girl trying to reacclimate to society after being a victim of human trafficking. Parts of this are very difficult to read as they involve flashbacks to her days in captivity, which are gruesome and downright evil. Just as unsettling was the trauma the main character endures throughout her recovery. Her ability to feel emotions, to trust family, to say "no" to people lo Trigger warning - graphic scenes of sexual abuse, physical abuse, human trafficking. A raw, unflinching account of a high school girl trying to reacclimate to society after being a victim of human trafficking. Parts of this are very difficult to read as they involve flashbacks to her days in captivity, which are gruesome and downright evil. Just as unsettling was the trauma the main character endures throughout her recovery. Her ability to feel emotions, to trust family, to say "no" to people looking to abuse her, are all severely hindered and make her feel like she can never be "normal" ever again. Her continued abuse by classmates and peers as the school "slut" seems otherworldly, like this level of hate couldn't possibly happen in our modern times (though it absolutely does.) This story has a powerful message which it delivers effectively while gut-wrenching you to your core. That being said, I didn't quite gel with the writing style which was very blunt and succinct. Some of the dialogue felt clunky and unnatural, and some of the choices made by main characters felt out of place. But that doesn't take away from the importance of the message being conveyed. Overall, a tragic story (based on real events) that needs to be read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kelsea

    4.5 stars! This was yet another case of Wednesday Books knowing me better than I know myself. Much like Jane Anonymous, (my review here) it's likely I would never have picked up this book, if left to my own devices. I do read books featuring heavier subject matter, but shy away from choosing certain types of stories for whatever reason. In this case, I'm so glad the wonderful team over at Wednesday Book kindly sent me copies of both books -- I read them out of sheer curiosity, and both turned out 4.5 stars! This was yet another case of Wednesday Books knowing me better than I know myself. Much like Jane Anonymous, (my review here) it's likely I would never have picked up this book, if left to my own devices. I do read books featuring heavier subject matter, but shy away from choosing certain types of stories for whatever reason. In this case, I'm so glad the wonderful team over at Wednesday Book kindly sent me copies of both books -- I read them out of sheer curiosity, and both turned out to be excellent reads! This was such a powerfully written, emotional story. I love thrillers (both adult and YA) and I'm really used to stories that focus on the search and rescue. Usually, the story ends there. But books like Jane Anonymous and What Unbreakable Looks Like begin there. They begin with the rescue and dive into the complex emotional period that is the afterward. It's a lot to tackle, and I love how it's handled here. Lex is so well-written. She's really believable as a teen character and someone who's survived the horrors of sex trafficking. She comes off as stony and unfeeling at times, but it felt clear to me that this was because of what she's been through, not because that's her natural personality or any lack of skill on the author's part. I loved seeing those moments of the real Lex, the before Lex, shine through, when she starts to move forward and learn how to navigate the after. I honestly don't want to say too much, because I think this story is best explored without too many preconceived notions, but I'll just say I thought the author did a fantastic job of balancing joy and despair, hopefulness and hopelessness, and I loved Lex's journey and how it turns out. I also love that there's such a mix of characters in the book. The worst and best of humanity. Just note that this story goes GRITTY. It is a pretty rough read, but appropriately so, considering the subject matter. This is a book that pushes readers to open their eyes to the horrific, worldwide industry of sex trafficking. It personalizes a horror that is so often reduced to statistics. Thank you Wednesday Books for providing me a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Out TODAY (June 23, 2020)!

  28. 5 out of 5

    LEAH⇢

    THE DETAILS⇣ ⇢ 3¾ ✰STARS✰ ⤏ SEX TRAFFICKING ⤏ SURVIVOR STORY ⤏ FINDING YOUR WORTH AFTER IT'S BEEN STOMPED ON & STOLEN FROM YOU ⤏ GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS OF RAPE, DRUG USE, AND ABUSE ⤏ SPLASH OF ROMANCE ⤏ AUDIO LENGTH - 11 HOURS, 18 MINUTES ⤏ I LISTENED ON LIBBY THROUGH MY LIBRARY MY THOUGHTS⇣ Jesse Vilinsky gave a wonderfully realistic performance and really brought Lex/Poppy to life...the MC's dialogue is choppy, with short sentences...but with the help of her narration it not only worked, it felt complet THE DETAILS⇣ ⇢ 3¾ ✰STARS✰ ⤏ SEX TRAFFICKING ⤏ SURVIVOR STORY ⤏ FINDING YOUR WORTH AFTER IT'S BEEN STOMPED ON & STOLEN FROM YOU ⤏ GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS OF RAPE, DRUG USE, AND ABUSE ⤏ SPLASH OF ROMANCE ⤏ AUDIO LENGTH - 11 HOURS, 18 MINUTES ⤏ I LISTENED ON LIBBY THROUGH MY LIBRARY MY THOUGHTS⇣ Jesse Vilinsky gave a wonderfully realistic performance and really brought Lex/Poppy to life...the MC's dialogue is choppy, with short sentences...but with the help of her narration it not only worked, it felt completely authentic given all the circumstances of the story. A raw, arduous look at the life of someone who is trafficked and held in a hotel only thirty minutes from her home. This book is difficult to read at times, with graphic depictions of rape, forced drug use, and the degrading/warping of one's mind. But, it's so damn indelible, it will gut you. There is one particular memory of hers that literally almost made me throw up in mouth a little bit. This book could have been a five-star read but unfortunately, it fell apart towards the end. I felt like she made a complete turn-about in her recovery way to quickly and was ready (view spoiler)[to have sex all of sudden...what...that just felt like it was disingenuous to her recovery. The romance between them was absolutely awesome...very well done, even, they or her (the author) just shouldn't have taken it to that level. (hide spoiler)] I had to hide that part because it was rather spoiler-y...I don't usually do spoilers but this really pissed me off. I can't really bring myself to call this YA...despite most of the character's being teens. Maybe, YA-ish, but even that's difficult. BREAKDOWN⇣ Narration Rating ⇢ 5 STARS Plot ⇢ 3.7/5 Characters ⇢ 4.5/5 The Feels ⇢ 4/5 Pacing ⇢ 3/5 Addictiveness ⇢ 5/5 Theme, Tone or Intensity ⇢ 5/5 Originality/Believability ⇢5/5 Flow (Writing Style/Ease of Listening) ⇢ 4.5/5 Romance/Chemistry ⇢ 4/5 Ending ⇢ 3/5 Summation ⇢ 3¾ STARS

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This one was a little difficult, but not as bad as I thought it could be. I wouldn’t consider it YA, and I believe it did have some romance. If you struggle with broken, messy people being honest, then you might not be able to handle this. But, if you’ve lived a life like mine, then you’ll be glad someone was willing to write about it and show us hope. I’m really glad I read this and I highly recommend it. We all need to be aware that human trafficking is happening, today, right now! 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This one was a little difficult, but not as bad as I thought it could be. I wouldn’t consider it YA, and I believe it did have some romance. If you struggle with broken, messy people being honest, then you might not be able to handle this. But, if you’ve lived a life like mine, then you’ll be glad someone was willing to write about it and show us hope. I’m really glad I read this and I highly recommend it. We all need to be aware that human trafficking is happening, today, right now! And the children will need to have someone meet them where they are. What do we do with a girl that’s lost her innocence? Who has suffered terrible, ugly things. Not even mentioning the violence. Drug abuse? Can we be a part of the solution or make it worse for them? Just some of the questions I kept asking myself while I read. ✋🏼🎤 This was a NETGALLEY gift and I’ve given an honest review. All opinions were my own.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fanna

    July 02, 2020: There's no doubt this book deals with an important, and unfortunately unexplored, theme of sex trafficking especially as a story for the YA demographic. The story is raw and a difficult read; it's evident that the stark reality of it all can impact the readers in an unexpected yet important manner since many teens are sadly living or have lived through this nightmare of sexual assault. However, the execution was bad. The narration felt off right from the start; the pacing is bumpy July 02, 2020: There's no doubt this book deals with an important, and unfortunately unexplored, theme of sex trafficking especially as a story for the YA demographic. The story is raw and a difficult read; it's evident that the stark reality of it all can impact the readers in an unexpected yet important manner since many teens are sadly living or have lived through this nightmare of sexual assault. However, the execution was bad. The narration felt off right from the start; the pacing is bumpy and everything is mushed together in an often incoherent manner. A benefit of doubt can be given to the premise of the story since the theme is gritty that the atmosphere and tone is purposefully hazy. But there wasn't a single chapter where the voice strengthened so the expectations were clearly not met. Furthermore, The use of AAVE and the N-word in the writing style is absolutely disgraceful and inappropriate and could've been easily avoided. While I couldn't have easily picked on the vernacular influence since I'm and have always been situated outside the American continent, the N-word was striking and hard to ignore. Other reviewers—especially those I admire & trust—like Destiny and Leelyn have made a clearer comment on this aspect and I would gladly redirect everyone to their reviews. It's clear that the book could've made a strong impact since the character growth was good and the romantic inclinations while recovering from the past torturous experiences is gradually developed. But there are evidently wrong aspects of this book and that doesn't allow me to highly or even slightly recommend it unless someone wishes to pick this up at their own accord. June 21, 2020: It was indeed a difficult read. Took me a week to get through the book. And towards the end, I came across the author invading a reviewer's space on Twitter and that's just made this book even worse for me. Full review to come. May 8, 2020: This is going to be a difficult read. I can feel it. Received a digital copy from Wednesday Books via Netgalley!

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