In the heart-tugging, Kleenex-pulling sequel to the 2009 Tricks, Ellen Hopkins takes readers back to Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger, and Cody and their lives as she picks up almost immediately where Tricks leaves off. While it’s not necessary for readers to have read Tricks recently, or even to have read it at all, it does help to have a working knowledge of the characters for a more heart-wrenching read. Hopkins spares no details of the sex trade, drugs, or the human trafficking in Traffick, and lists resources for kids to get help in the back. A touching and heartfelt book in her signature style, expect to be replacing copies as they walk off library shelves.
“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. Heart-wrenching 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.”
Aside from the fact that Traffick picks up almost immediately from where Tricks ended 6 years earlier, I adore that there are so many varied stories and different facets throughout the book and you never know where the stories are going to go. At one point you think a story will end up happy and then it’s pulled apart and you’re just bawling, and then when you think a story is just going to spiral down, it gets an updraft and lightly settles on a happy note. None of the five main characters were in the best places when we last read about them, and situations are not any better for most. Hopkins doesn’t gloss over reality, either: the nastiness and horror of drugs, gay bashing, sex for money, and trafficking are exposed and made real for the reader.
There are resources for teens and youth dealing with issues in the back, from drugs to trafficking and abuse (note: I read an advanced copy so different resources may be in the finished copy). These are not often found in fictional materials; with books dealing with such realistic issues I often feel that there should be more resource notes included in them. Additionally, I liked that not all the endings were “traditionally” happy. There are those out there that think that teen books should have neat, happy endings, but life isn’t like that- and teens KNOW that. The endings of the stories for these teens are much more realistic, and because of that, it rings more truthful and will better reach those who need these stories.
There wasn’t much I didn’t like with Traffick. Almost all of the situations rang true to me. There were only two scenarios that I had an issue with, and they could be entirely plausible in real life, I just found that they stretched my imagination. One was when there was a run-away from a half-way house. The run-away was actually an important witness in a trial, and I couldn’t get my suspension of disbelief to allow the fact that law enforcement would put a witness there instead of under protection. The other deals with the background of a secondary character, and how it helps everything fall into place- I can’t reveal more without spoilers, but read it and see what you think.
With books like Hopkins, with multiple narrators and storylines, I’m not sure there can be an AHHHHH MOMENT but more a favorite storyline. If so, I think that my favorite would have to be Seth’s- he seems to be the one who has the most growth and the most fulfillment among the five. The others have ups and downs and wondrous moments and pits of despair, but on the whole I was taken with Seth’s the most. Another time, I’m sure it would be someone else’s storyline- Hopkins’ works are ones that I can read over and over again and get something new each time.
As with the rest of Ellen Hopkins’ books for teens, often I say the age range would be when the reader is ready for it. The publisher puts Traffick as for ages 14 and up, grades 10 and older, teen/ YA. I would agree, with the caveat that there are middle school readers who are facing these issues and need to read books like these, and don’t need to be restricted from books dealing with these topics. Librarian warning: Traffick deals with drugs, alcohol, sex, sexual abuse, child trafficking, kidnapping, physical abuse, and other hard topics, and would not be good for young or gentle readers. For nonfiction pairings, look for Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight by Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simo and In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop It by Nita Belles.
I just needed to have some quiet time for a while after finishing Traffick- there was a lot to digest, get over, and come to terms with emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Definitely an emotional read, and one that will have readers tearing through in order to find out what happens.