Blog Tour & Author Interview: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin
In 2018, a staggering 10,949 cases of human trafficking were reported in the US. Worldwide, 25% of trafficked humans are under the age of 18. What Unbreakable Looks Like shares the fictional account of Lex, who has been trafficked and is now reclaiming her life. Check out our interview with Kate McLaughlin, and be sure to pick up What Unbreakable Looks Like, out June 23rd!
What Unbreakable Looks Likeby Kate McLaughlin
on June 23, 2020
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.
Interview with Kate McLaughlin
Lex goes through a lot in the story, but the story is a resounding story of hope. What made it possible to keep hope alive through the dark moments in the story?
Knowing that there were survivors out there who have created beautiful lives for themselves, who have healed and moved forward. Also, I talked to a lot of people in the system who are doing everything they can to help these kids. They were what kept my hope alive. In the book, though, I had discovered so many horrible things in my research that I really, really needed to give Lex the best ending she could have, so knowing she was going to be okay made it easier to write the darker parts.
The story focuses on human trafficking. What was the research like to get Lex’s story right?
Overwhelming at times, to be honest. I discovered a lot of horrible things. What helped the most was I was introduced to a detective that worked trafficking. She was amazing, and so inspiring. She introduced me to a girl who had been trafficked and I became something of a mentor to her as she likes to write. So, after I fell in love with this kid (who told me some horrible, horrible stories once she trusted me), I met people she worked with, like her social worker and juvenile case manager, the people in the facilities where she stayed, her family… I became part of that world, and suddenly it wasn’t research anymore. It was my life, and the life of someone I deeply care about.
Who do you hope finds this story?
Does it sound disingenuous if I say everyone? Seriously, I really want those kids out there – cis, trans, non-binary, gay, lesbian – every freaking teenager there is – to read this book so when someone tries to take advantage of them they can see it for what it is. I was lucky as a kid to have a great support in my mother, but I can’t tell you how many girls I knew that could have been swept up into trafficking if someone had approached them. It’s terrifying to think of how easy it can be. People think traffickers are always lecherous older men, but they’re not. Teenage boys and girls recruit from their schools. Gangs use them because they’re kids and can’t be prosecuted the same as an adult. Women are traffickers as well. If someone seems too good to be true, they often are. But I don’t just want to warn kids, I want them to know there are people out there who will help them if they do find themselves in this situation. So, yeah, I want everyone to read this book, so adults – and teens – know how to help someone in trouble as well.