Title: Traffick (sequel to TRICKS)
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, November, 2015
Themes: sex trafficking of minors, tricks, homosexuality, homophobia, transphobia, family relationships, romantic relationships, abuse, Las Vegas
Genre: Contemporary YA
A Poem By Cody Bennet
The courage to leap
the brink, free-fall
beyond the precipice,
and the pain. Mine.
Mom’s. Oh she’d feel
the initial sting, cry
for a day or two, but it
short-lived, a quick
stab of grief. Finite.
A satin-lined coffin
and cool, deep hole are
walking a treadmill
over a carpet of coals,
enduring the blistering,
skin-cracking flames of
this living hell.
Five teens victimized by sex trafficking try to find their way to a new life in this riveting companion to the New York Times bestselling Tricks from Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank.
In her bestselling novel, Tricks, Ellen Hopkins introduced us to five memorable characters tackling these enormous questions: Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas and is helped into a child prostitution rescue; Seth, the gay farm boy disowned by his father who finds himself without money or resources other than his own body; Whitney, the privileged kid coaxed into the life by a pimp and whose dreams are ruined in a heroin haze; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling habit forces him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead.
And now, in Traffick, these five are faced with the toughest question of all: Is there a way out? How these five teenagers face the aftermath of their decisions and experiences is the soul of this story that exposes the dark, ferocious underbelly of the child trafficking trade. Heartwrenching and hopeful, Traffick takes us on five separate but intertwined journeys through the painful challenges of recovery, rehabilitation, and renewal to forgiveness and love. All the way home. (Goodreads)
Why I like this book:
I reread TRICKS over the summer to reacquaint myself with the five protagonists. While TRAFFICK can be read as a standalone, details of the reasons they all started doing Tricks are revisited in the sequel, and reading both gives the most powerful reader experience.
One thing that I particularly liked about TRAFFICK were the poems before each character section. Many of them were from the perspective of a family member, partner, or friend of the main character in that chapter. I think it is important to note that there is a difference between a poem and the verse in which the rest of the novel is written. Hopkins often uses poems very effectively through her verse novels giving an extra intimate viewpoint into a character. All her novels, I believe, are written in the first person.
In TRICKS, Hopkins presents the individual trajectories into the sex trade of Eden, Seth, Ginger, Whitney, and Cody. TRAFFICK follows their evolution, most obviously by a focus on the communities in which these characters now find themselves. Often it is these communities that offer the structure and hope that the teens need to heal and move forward, but not always. Hopkins intentionally does not end the five stories all with neat, happy closure, rather, while offering much hope, the readers are left with uncertainty as to the fate of some of the characters. This maintains the reality of some of adolescents who find themselves trapped in the web of abuse, dependancy and addiction that infiltrates the tricks’ scene. Willingness to accept help and learning to rely on other people play an important part in this sequel.
In TRAFFICK, Hopkins has built a complex narrative, including more characters who have been victims of sex trafficking. These communities of survivors and those supporting them add some of the hope needed when writing gritty stories like this. While some of the teens’ stories seem similar, the details are not. Each voice is relevant, and one thing I took form this novel was the need for voices like these to be heard. They are relevant. They are not just a statistic. They are not just part of a larger issue. They are important and they matter.
The variety of backgrounds of these victims (and ALL children are victims) is authentic and dispels myths that readers might have about the type of kid that could get caught up in doing tricks. I also appreciated the variety of gender and sexuality expressed in these communities. This felt very realistic as did the responses of homophobia and transphobia expressed by family members and strangers. Hopkins never holds back from painted life as it is and yet the beauty of the verse, the depth of character development and the rays of hope power the reader on their journey with these five lives. Each of these characters must face their pasts to move toward a better future—rehab, a search for love and understanding, a struggle with PTSD and drug relapse, volunteering to work with other LGBT youth. Their experience vary and they mess up along the way; they’re human.
When I finished reading TRICKS years ago, I didn’t realize how much I needed to know what happened to Eden, Seth, Ginger, Whitney, and Cody. But after finishing TRAFFICK, I’m glad to see them, for the most part, break out of the cycle of abuse/addiction and at least see a path of freedom opening up. I’m sure that it will have a lasting effect on me just as Tricks did. TRAFFICK is an important book that I hope ends up in the hands of many readers. We need to know the dangers our young people face; so do they!
I heard Ellen speak and read from TRAFFICK a few weeks ago in Books of Wonder and she mentioned that 50,000-300,000 children a day are involved of the forced sex trade in North America. That’s horrific. This book gives these lost children a voice and creates a sense of hope that it doesn’t have to be the end. It also raises awareness of this perverse industry and just maybe will save some from falling into this trap.
Hopkins lists two numbers in the author notes at the back of the book:
- The National Human Trafficking and Smuggling Center at 1-888-373-7888, and
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.