I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Little Peach by Peggy Kern
Published by Balzer + Bray on March 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
In the tradition of Patricia McCormick and Ellen Hopkins comes this powerful novel, the riveting story of a runaway who is lured into prostitution by a manipulative pimp.
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.
This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive.
I did not enjoy this book. In fact, I’m not sure how anyone could given the subject matter, but it’s probably one of my favorites of the year. Little Peach is raw and unflinching story of how one girl finds herself knee deep in the world of child prostitution. The subject matter is a heavy one, and Kern does not hold back the reality of Michelle’s, AKA “Little Peach,” world. Little Peach is a 200 page powerful story that with knee your feels right where it counts, make you curl into a ball and cry.
Michelle grows up in a troubled home with her grandfather, her primary caregiver and protector. However, when he passes away, she loses all of that and is forced to find her own way. So she decides to go to New York in the hopes that she’ll be able to stay with a friend. When she arrives, her plan falls through and she realizes just how dire her situation is, and is picked up by a seemingly charming and helpful boy named Devon. Desperate, vulnerable with nowhere else to turn, Michelle accepts his help and is swept into a world of drug addiction and prostitution.
Devon, her “daddy,” establishes himself as a new provider and protector of Michelle and the other two girls who reside with him: Baby and Kat. With promises of love and a new family, Michelle accepts her lot in life and becomes “Little Peach,” believing this is the best that’s out there for her. When your mother is a drug addict who chooses her slimy boyfriend over you, there aren’t many options. Still, there are times when she regrets her new life, especially when she sees the mistreatment of the other girls and the horrors of her “family.” Then there are times when she fleetingly finds peace and happiness: When she, Baby and Kat are “off duty” and enjoying a fun day. You can tell she longs for a normal life, one any girl should have, but the realities of her life continue to creep back night after night in the form of getting high and hotel rooms. It’s a sharp contrast as she battles to hold onto her childhood during the day, while slipping on her adult personality every night along with the dresses Devon makes her wear.
Michelle’s voice is strong, broken and raw all at once as her narration flips between the story of how she became Devon’s Little Peach and chapters told from a hospital bed, wanting to reach out to the social worker assigned to her case. The former displays a voice of innocence lost as Michelle tells of her time not only with Devon, but also with her grandfather. While the latter feels sharper and harder, more distant and tougher thanks to many of the horrible things she’s encountered. It made me want to hug her and take all her pain away. Kern captures all of Michelle’s longing, desperation, hopelessness and sadness perfectly. She creates a voice that can’t be ignored or forgotten, one that begs us to for help and demands our attention, leaving the reader horrified, fascinated and disgusted all at once.
The worst part of Little Peach is that everything thing in the book is real. There are no happy endings, no easy answers or closures. This is real life. And that’s a hard pill to swallow to think that this is happening right now, even as you read this review. This book left me an angry, weeping mess and I know it won’t ever leave me.
**If you are interested in learning more about human trafficking and what you can do, National Human Trafficking Resource Center is a great place to start.
Q&A with Peggy Kern
As soon as I finished Little Peach, I was instantly curious about how Peggy Kern went about gathering research for the novel. I had the opportunity to ask her 3 questions about how she went about writing Little Peach. Her answers may surprise you.
You mention in the Author’s Note that you interviewed women who are currently in situations like this. How did you go about finding these women and speaking with them? Basically, can you tell us what it was like researching for a subject as heavy as child prostitution?
Researching Little Peach changed my life. It was critical to me that I speak directly with women who had experienced being trafficked. I felt I had no right to even attempt this story without doing that. I didn’t want Peach to me my imagined version of events, but an accurate (albeit fictional) account of actual experience.
When I got the idea for the book, I contacted an old friend of mine who was a detective with the NYPD at the time. My original hope was to learn more about trafficking in the NYC area, but Joe was kind enough to go above and beyond. He put me in touch with a woman named Miracle, who I met with several times. She was trafficked when she was 12 years old, right out of a group home in New York City, and ended up part of the Bloods in Coney Island. She was addicted to crack-cocaine by the time she was 13. She has multiple tattoos from the gang, including a five-point red star placed right behind her ear – a trick gangs use to easily identify females that “belong” to them.
Miracle and I would sit in the shadows of the Coney Island amusement park and she would tell me about her life, all she has seen and experienced, all she knew about how trafficking works. I still can’t believe she was willing to talk to me. With all that had happened to her, she had no reason to trust anyone, let alone some random woman she’d never met before. So much of the book is based on what Miracle taught me.
I also spoke with a woman named Jen, who I literally met on a street corner at 2 a.m. in Brooklyn. She was also trafficked and tattoo’d as a kid, just like Miracle.
My friend Joe showed me several hotels where underage girls are being sold, so I would spend time at night watching from across the street, watching the tricks go in and out, watching the pimps who stand guard, watching the girls walk to the corner stores to get potato chips. I would also watch law enforcement, who are vaguely aware but not particularly alarmed by what was goes on in those hotels. This was one of the harshest truths I learned: It’s not that these kids aren’t visible, it’s that their safety just isn’t prioritized. There is such a stigma attached to “prostitution” – together with racial prejudice and a general disregard for the poor in this country – that most simply do not see these kids as KIDS, let alone victims.
What was the hardest part for you when it came to writing Little Peach?
Doing justice to the stories I’d heard. Holding that responsibility. I felt enormous pressure to document, as honestly as I could, the experience of the women I met, and all the other girls out there I couldn’t get near.
Also, the end was hard to write. I wanted to save every single character, but if I’d done that, it would not have been honest to the outcome of the lives of actual victims. Most of them aren’t saved. So I had to accept that I didn’t get to rescue my characters in the way I felt they deserved. And that was incredibly hard.
For many, reading Little Peach will spark justified outrage. But what are some ways readers can reach out and get involved in helping women like Michelle, Baby and Kat?
This is a tough question, and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it. My best suggestion – and the shortest answer – is to connect with those non-profits on the ground that are working directly on this issue, such as GEMS. Ask them what they need from you, and join the fight in whatever way you can.
Also, DON’T FORGET ABOUT THESE GIRLS. Talk about them. Talk to your friends, tell your male friends especially. Oppression relies on silence and ignorance. Well, those of us who are now aware of sex trafficking in the U.S. cannot claim ignorance anymore – and we cannot, therefore, be silent either, or else we become complicit in the system.
The bigger answer has to do with the deep and widening gap between rich and poor, black and white, in this country. Sex trafficking is a product of abject poverty. Peach’s circumstance – her level of poverty – is not unusual in this country. At all. Poverty exists because our public schools keep failing, and our prisons keep growing, and because Non-Poor America stays far, far away from neighborhoods like North Philadelphia and Coney Island. We close our eyes and hope it will all go away, or we believe it’s not our problem. Right now in North Philly, the public schools are so starved for cash, they cannot afford to have a school nurse or guidance counselor on staff. Think about that. Think about what it might have meant for Peach if there had been a counselor at school with enough time and resources to assist her. Or what if our foster care and group home facilities weren’t so under-funded that kids are actually terrified of going there and thus, they run away instead? What if law enforcement was trained to spot and protect these kids by any means necessary?
So. As Peach says, “I am awake.” I think being awake to these larger issues is critical, too.
Check out the rest of the tour:
Thanks to the folks at HarperCollins, we have one finished copy of Little Peach to give away to a Cuddlebuggery reader.
- To enter, please fill out the Raffelcopter form below.
- We ask that all entrants be at least 13 years or older to enter.
- The giveaway is open to US/CA only.
- When the winners are chosen, it will be announced here and the winners will be emailed.
- Please enter your email address in the Rafflecopter form and not the comments.