Published by HarperCollins on March 10, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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What do you do if you're in trouble?
When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York City, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: she is alone and out of options.
Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels.
But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution where he becomes her “Daddy” and she his “Little Peach.” It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition.
Heartbreaking, terrifying, and raw.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think about Little Peach before I started. Prostitution is a hard topic to cover, especially in YA, but tough issue books are some of my favorite (it seems having books break my heart is a favorite past time of mine.) so I was definitely anticipating this novel. When I finally read it…it was as much as I thought it’d be–gritty and heartbreaking and…well, haunting, especially for such a quick read that I finished in a little over an hour.
Immediately going, there’s an interesting way that Kern tells this story in a sort of Before and After sequence, and referring to a character as “you.” It’s a heartbreaking way to tell the story, especially when “you” is practically a stranger and when you can tell that she’s desperate for him to understand her words. It’s heartbreaking when you realize someone is pinning their last hope on a stranger, and when their last hope could very easily disappoint her as everyone had before. (Can you tell how affected by this book I am yet?)
I started to tear up at 20% in. We have a main character who has hopes, but doesn’t dare to dream and a mom who doesn’t know anything except how to break herself and that she wants to, somehow, protect her child. A child who, really, both stayed a child and grew up faster than anyone should’ve. She doesn’t know anything beyond her need for a family and her want to be something better. And it’s heartbreaking as we watch her realize that her so-called fairy tale isn’t a fairy tale and it isn’t one anyone wants to tell.
Which, I suppose, is the most terrifying thing about this book–that this kind of thing happens all the time, every day, and everywhere. Thousand of little girls (because no matter how harsh or biting they are, they’ll always be the most broken little girls.) being sold and having the life drained out of them, and no one wants to tell their story. So kudos to Kern for being brave enough to do it.
It’s a terrifying thought, really. Especially since I’m an only child of a single mom myself. If things had gone the wrong way…I don’t even want to think about the what ifs and the could’ves. It’s really, utterly terrifying. Especially because Michelle really thought of Devon as her protector, as family. She didn’t realize how like her mom she was becoming and in the midst of being high and drunk she’d think she was better. Because people would…protect her, in her eyes. It’s terrifying how thoroughly manipulated she’d been.
Peggy Kern writes a book that pushes the limit of YA and one that’s equally terrifying and heartbreaking. It’s one that shines a light on things everyone knows is there, but tries to keep in the dark. Little Peach is a book you can’t ignore, and one that’s poignant and gritty and raw.