Tuesday, June 16, 2020

What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin
[Blog Tour: Review]

Hello, lovelies! Welcome to the next stop on the What Unbreakable Looks Like blog tour, hosted by St. Martin's Press & Wednesday Books. The book will be released on June 23rd, and it's definitely one you want to look for! I am thrilled I get to share my thoughts on this emotional rollercoaster-of-a-book with you.

https://amzn.to/2YXeHJOLex 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.

"Sometimes I think that's all life is𑁋just showing up."
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

What Unbreakable Looks Like made me RAGE, it made me sick to my stomach, and it made me want to get involved and do something. We need to permanently put an end to the trafficking of people, and it needs to be something the WORLD is talking about. It's not an issue you would think existed in 2020, BUT IT IS. The world is advanced! A better place, right? People aren't supposed to be treated like slaves, or forced to provide sexual acts for others against their will. These girls were repeatedly abused (raped, beaten, drugged) and made to feel hopeless and worthless.

I can't imagine seeing someone in Lex's situation (whether I was a legitimate visitor to the hotel, or just saw something while passing by) and not saying anything. How can you witness a CHILD being used against their will and simply look the other way? My stomach turns every time I think about mothers who are missing their daughters (and in some cases their sons), and eventually learning that their babies were trafficked for the pleasure of others.

It takes a really twisted motherfucker to do that to children, and it's disturbing how many of them get away with it. I know this book is fictional, but it's inspired by true events and people's stories. Lex wasn't kidnapped and brought to the motel. No, Mitch bought her expensive gifts and made her fall in love with him (a child who didn't have a lot, and who lived with an alcoholic mother). He made himself look like a hero in comparison, and he easily manipulated Lex into doing what he wanted. When she finally found her voice, it was too late. His claws were in too deep, and she didn't have anyone who'd care that she was missing. Even more disturbing, her mother and stepfather were friends with Mitch, and knew where she was. Her mother might not have known to what extent Lex was being used, but Frank definitely did.

My heart broke so many times while reading this book, and I don't think the shards will ever fully realign and repair themselves. I kept thinking, "What if this had been me? What if this happened to one of my girls? What would I do?" The story really hit me hard, and I think the author did an amazing job navigating the world of sex trafficking, and the impact it has on someone's mental and physical state. Lex was relatable, likable, and totally root-for-able. She didn't make stupid decisions once she started living with her aunt and uncle, like not telling them something they needed to know (at least... not for long), and I appreciated how honest she was about herself and her situation.

Lex has lost all sense of what it's like to be normal. She's struggling to come to terms with what happened to her, and to believe that her aunt and uncle want her around. She feels like a burden, or that something will happen and they'll decide she's not worth the trouble. I loved both Krys and Jamal, and I'm thankful they were there and willing to take Lex home and away from the world she'd previously known. They only ever showed her compassion, love, and kindness, and I think that helped her more than they realized. They didn't always understand what she was going through, but they were willing to listen, be patient, and learn. They wanted to give Lex everything she deserved and more, and I wish everyone had people like that in their lives. The world would be a better place for it.

The secondary characters were wonderfully written, and I loved both Elsa and Zack. They were there for Lex in a way she wasn't expecting, and their friendships (in addition to the love and acceptance from Krys and Jamal) did a lot to help Lex heal. They made her feel normal, and didn't pry into her past. They didn't make her talk about what she didn't want to discuss, and they never judged her decisions. Lex wasn't always great to Zack, letting her emotions rule her actions, but she always apologized, and he was understanding and forgiving. Both of her friends could relate𑁋to some extent𑁋to what she was going through, and I really enjoyed learning more about them as well.

Other characters, like Mike and his friends, or the people that visited Lex at the hotel, were people that brought out my anger and hated. They are despicable pieces of trash, and I really hope they all get what they deserve (fictional or not). The detective, doctors, therapist, principal, teachers𑁋all amazing. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to work with children who've been through something so traumatic, and it was heartwarming to see how much they truly cared about Lex and the other girls in this book.

What Unbreakable Looks Like is a hard read because it's based in truth. Everything that happened in this book is currently happening in the world (and probably on a more extreme level). I was absorbed in this story from the start, and my emotions ricocheted all over the place while I read it. If you can stomach the atrocities that happen in this story, I highly recommend reading it. It was an eye-opening experience, and something I think more people should be aware of. (★★★★★)

Author Bio:

KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken - people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she's not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she'll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She's the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like.

Early Praise:

"With unflinching honesty, What Unbreakable Looks Like exposes the injuries and scars we wear on our skins or in our souls. Hidden damage is tragically common, but helpful others who dared embrace hope invite Alexa to step onto the healing path. This novel may offer a springboard for a reader's own healing or foster empathy for life's walking wounded." - Liz Coley, author of international bestseller Pretty Girl-13

"Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin's thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma." - Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project

“This is a powerful book about a sobering topic that I found myself thinking about for days after I completed it. It is wonderfully poignant, painfully real, and even laugh out loud funny at times. Not everyone can truly wrap their minds around the trauma these victims endure and yet somehow, despite all of it, are still just regular kids. But Kate McLaughlin gets it. ‘Lex’ is truly what unbreakable looks like and you’ll fall in love with her spirit.” - Tanya Compagnone, Trooper First Class

“Sex trafficking continues to seep into all our communities. In this novel, Kate McLaughlin brings to life the trauma that transpires in youth who forced into the life of sex trafficking. Her novel is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in someone’s life.” - Dina R. St. George, MSW, Juvenile Re-Entry Unit OCPD 

Buy Link: Wednesday Books 
Social link: Twitter 


  1. Damn, that sounds absolutely heart breaking.

    1. It was! This story is fictional, but her experiences are what other people live through every day. Human trafficking is a really big problem in the US (I believe it's only second to drugs), and we should be doing more to prevent it from happening.

  2. It is CRAZY that this is such a prominent issue still. I think books have great power at bringing awareness to things like this that we know about but are often indifferent to. 2020 has been a year of facing many problems head on, so this is absolutely something we could be doing more about.

    1. Yes! Sex trafficking is essentially slavery. They have no rights, no choices, no hope. Humans being bought and sold for sex (beaten, drugged, and abused) is something more people should be concerned about. Like you said, books like this one need to be out there to bring awareness to issues most people don't concern themselves with. We definitely should be doing more to combat this issue, and prevent it from happening to others.

  3. Wow.. this sounds like a heart breaking and very intense read. What a world we life in right?!

    1. What a world indeed. A president that doesn't care about the country he's running (into the ground), Black Lives Matter protestors trying to be heard over shouts of "All Lives Matter" because people are incapable of understanding the pain of others, Black men and women being murdered simply because of the color of the skin, and their killers not being held accountable for their actions. Then you have Murder Hornets, droughts, locusts destroying crops. LGBTQ+ fighting for their rights, women wanting to be treated equally, PEOPLE wanting to be treated the equally. Drugs, sex trafficking, and a PANDEMIC that is being largely ignored now that stay-at-home orders have been lifted. Climate change, foreign politics... the list goes on and on.

      This book is heartbreaking, but I also think it's a story people need to hear. We can't make a difference if people aren't even aware of the problem.

  4. This is a much-needed story. I know people who work with organizations to combat sex trafficking. It's heartbreaking that it's a real issue and can even happen in the city where we live. Thanks for sharing about this book!

    1. I want to get involved with an organization that works to combat sex trafficking. I was aware it existed, but I didn't know how prominent it was here in the US. I thought it was some distant problem other people were dealing with, and I was wrong. I think more people need to be aware of this issue, and it's something we need to stop from happening.

  5. Oh I don't know if I could read this one! Every time I hear a sex trafficking story on the news I get ragey and stabby. I'm glad there are books highlighting the issue (because people are seriously in denial about it) but, especially at the moment, I couldn't handle it. :(

    1. Oh, I was definitely ragey and stabby. It was a tough read for sure, but I thought the author did an excellent job telling the story.


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