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.
What Unbreakable Looks Like is definitely a book that you have to be in the right frame of mind to read. It is a hard hitting story with some difficult topics that I found at times quite challenging to read but it deals with messages that are so important to talk about and highlight.
Like any story with a good message it looks at behaviours that people take for granted and shows the impact that that has. There is a lot of conversation around consent, which is so important and the story shows situations that someone can be put in where consent can be manipulated which I feel is definitely something that should be talked about more.
Lex is an unusual character, she is quite abrasive and flat to begin with, which meant I found it hard to connect to her at the beginning but actually that is probably realistic, why would someone who has been through such things be any thing else. As the story progresses she does develop, she gets stronger and starts to stand up for herself and most importantly she starts to trust people again. I liked that even though she was becoming a stronger person she still showed a lot of vulnerability and that she still had to push the boundaries of those around her to make herself feel more safe.
I felt like Zack was such an amazing character for this, the kind of empathetic guy that always knows the right thing to say and do. I liked that when Lex was trying to use him he was able to be firm with her but only ever with her best interests at heart. I loved seeing their relationship develop, he is such a sweet character but he could also be surprising.
For the most part I found the story gripping and absorbing, there were a few parts that the pacing felt disjointed. I think because at times the plot was kind of set against itself, for me the main focus of this story is Lex trying to readjust to life outside of a terrible situation but there are also a lot of other things that happen to her throughout the story which are there to further the message but I think did make other parts feel slower.
I quite liked that we got to see more of Lex’s experiences at the motel as she became strong enough to handle them. At first when we hear about it the information is very surface level but as we get to know Lex better we get to see more of the complex relationships between her and most specifically Ivy but also Daisy, it adds a different level of understanding than I maybe would have had at the beginning of the book.
Overall this is a story with an important message and even though it was at times an uncomfortable read it also had those moments of hope that kept you going and kept you invested in the story and the conversations that it evokes. I would definitely recommend it but would also caution to check content warnings before reading.
KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She’s the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like.