Published by Balzer + Bray on March 10th, 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.
This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive.
How does one adequately review a book like Little Peach? This is so much more than a book. It’s a slice of the ugly side of real life, shit that happens in this country that we ignore every single day. It’s a slap in the face to those with the privilege to be able to ignore it. Little Peach isn’t just the story of young Michelle, picked up in New York city and forced into prostitution. Instead, it is the story of real girls, thousands of them. This book calls out to the reader to notice them, to be outraged, to call for a change.
In just over 208 pages, Little Peach conveys all of that and more. It’s not easy to read at all. There are parts that turned my stomach to read, but I kept pushing on. These are teenage girls (actually, one 12 year old girl, too) being forced to tattoo their pimps name on their flesh like a brand, to take pill after pill to make them yet even more dependent, to endure the wills of disgusting men, lying on their backs in filthy hotel rooms. This is a study in Stockholm syndrome, how a girl can feel the devastation and yet cling to the abuser because what she left behind might have been even worse. Michelle, fourteen years old, thrown out by her crack-addled mother, only wanted to feel safe and loved, and Devon knew that. He knew that, and this is what he did to her, and to Kat, and to Baby.
Technically, too, this book is sound. The writing is vivid and colorful, but sparse and simple. The language reflected the environment and the people; the use of AAVE was spot on while it could have gone very, very wrong. The storytelling, in alternating timelines, was tight and focused, switching from Michelle in the hospital room after a beating that left her with glass imbedded into her leg and her front teeth broken and jagged, and the past – all the little things that lead to that beating. And while the book was short, there was no shortage of a sense of character. We know Michelle through and through. We’ve seen where she comes from, the love that once held her little family together. We know what she had and what was taken from her; we know what motivates her.
I know this type of book isn’t for everyone, but I can’t pull enough words together to tell you the magnitude and importance of this story. Michelle’s story is the same of thousands of girls across the United States. Thousands of forgotten girls who are forced to endure this pain from a very young age until they die, often just a few short years later. Little Peach, beautifully written, devastating, and raw, is not the kind of book that can be ignored.