One Among Us: Paige Dearth
Some stories have to be told and when you read this one the anger that will well up inside of every reader will never wane until something is done to stop what the author has shared with you and everyone else. Sex trafficking, human trafficking, drugs for sale and children for sale are at the heart of this novel. The voices you hear the heartbreaking cries and the screams of pain and desperation and plead for help will haunt you forever. Maggie Clarke is the lead character in this story that she would rather have not has had a starring role. Eleven-year-old Maggie Clarke wants to be treated like a big kid so she asks her mother to allow her to buy her own slice of pizza at the mall. If she had to do it again I guarantee she would have stayed close to her mother and brother, Keith. Sad but true she fell for the lines that this sick man handed her and while hoping to help him with his dog she winds up in a crate in the back of a truck and this is where her nightmare begins. Never did she expect to be treated like a piece of rotten meat and used to give pleasure to so many sick people who would profit from what they deemed her special talents. Not self taught but instructed to embarrass herself in front of so many and parade around in a demeaning way, Maggie learns about the world of child porn, sex trafficking and drugs at the age of 11. John William is the man who tricked her at the mall and who will sell her at auction. The graphic scenes described and what Maggie and the others young children her age and younger face is horrific. Befriending a young girl named Cali at first and irritating for no reason another named Shana she is put into a world where she either complies with the evil people who own her or face beatings and worse. Thelma is the first person that she deals with and she is on drugs, strung out and the wife of Rock you might call him her cruel handler. Armando is the first man she deals with but the horrific punishments and being placed in a closet in a box smaller than a cardboard box used for groceries made it hard to read at times. Each time she and the others were severely beaten I wanted someone to take it out on those that hurt her. Listening to her mother and father’s voices and her brother having to face the unknown not knowing if she is alive or dead brought tears to my eyes. It’s hard not to react when you read even more when she becomes a pole dancer, prostitute on the street taught by another named Trinity who also resented poor Maggie. But, Seth a young five-year-old innocent boy is special and she and Cali take him under their wing until someone decides to hurt this poor child for no reason. Living on the edge and praying each day not to be maimed, hurt or worse Maggie begins to toughen up and wonder who she really is and what she might become. When Cali does something to disobey these sadistic I cannot even call them people, more like animals, what happens to her will harden Maggie even more and make her more protective of Seth.
Being on the street and having to make her quota she finally finds a friend in Juju a local drug dealer who works for Rock. But, no one is immune to the horrors and cruelties but hope is their only salvation.
Rae Harker’s daughter was taken and because he never found her he is working day and night to find Maggie. But, Lorraine her mother cannot handle things and her father is trying to keep their marriage in place while Keith her brother wishes they would center their attention on him and not Maggie. Added in we meet Dr. Purse who appears to care about Maggie but he’s no different than anyone else and when she asks for books on different subjects and adds in medical ones to help anyone that is sick or injured he takes it out in trade.
Seth needs all the protection he can get but with Armando and Rock the girls find it hard to exist at times. Juju becomes like an older sister to Maggie and when she and Seth are able to live with her things seem better but in her world it will never be the same until she is freed. It’s like being in bondage as a slave but worse.
Working in different clubs she finally meets Emma who becomes her good friend and protector when another dancer named Montana goes after her. Interspersed we hear her parent’s voices and their yearly remembrances of her birthday. Detective Harker will never give up and as Maggie goes to the library and learns more about what the papers and news said about her abduction there is a glimmer of hope in her heart that she might return home.
Her mother is desperate for something and when Rae asks her and Rob to work as advocates for other parents that lost their children they willingly help and somehow reunite children and parents. Sad but true this story gets more devastating as Maggie gets more embroiled in this world and prays that she does not get riddled with drugs as we learn what happened to Darla a young teen just reunited with her parents and the sad shape both mentally and physically that will never change.
Two men Tony and Vincent see Maggie when she works at Doubles the club with Montana and Emma. They are part of the mob and would do anything to help free her if she asks. But, getting closer to them brings her more grief and Rock makes Seth deliver drugs and another child Joey is sent to be tortured by Thelma. Each time something horrific happens if can feel my teeth clench and my fists balled up.
When a young man named Colby comes into the picture it takes Maggie a while before she realizes that he is there to help set her free. Things take on a different turn and Seth gets deathly ill from being diagnosed with HIV and at the final stages. But, miracles happen when Colby is able to reunite him even for a short time with his parents and the final scenes of his life are sad, tragic and yet his parents finally found some closure and love for their son even for a short time. Joey the little girl that was his best friend besides Maggie who he called Aggie forever and Juju surrounded him during his final minutes. Rock could care less and when Maggie finally finds herself on the road to freedom and hopefully they take Rock and all of the pimps down will she take one more miracle and meet her parents? The meeting brought tears to my eyes and the fact that Rob and Lorraine are so amazing helped Maggie to adjust but being free and with Juju and Joey she would not break free of them and live with her parents but would remain close by. Mara a little girl was their adopted daughter and Maggie became the most wonderful young adult who would hopefully learn that her past is not her fault and her future might bring her more than just her freedom. Colby at her side, Joey with her at all times and the final chapters will tell you the reader what happens when a young girl named Maggie accepts the love from those who earned her trust and decides to give back to the community where she lived on the streets hope for others. A story told from the heart and told in graphic and descriptive language as if you the reader are living the terror along with Maggie, Juju, Seth, Emma and Joey. The final outcome of John William and Myles the two men responsible for taking Maggie might be the work and creativity of the author but the end result was up to you the reader to decide if justice was properly served. Maggie is strong, Juju is special and loyal to her but this story is not over yet as the author will now pen Emma’s story and hopefully hers will have a happy ending too when I hope to read and review: When Smiles Fade. The issues of human sex trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse, sadism and what bothers me the most is the school never reported Seth’s injuries but bless the school nurse for caring. Pimps are dangerous, living on the streets is not uncommon in the real world and these issues and this book seemed to be ripped right out of the headlines in the news. Teens be careful when speaking to strangers. Teens do not get into a care with anyone you don’t know and never walk home alone in the dark call your parents. Small children need to be taught never to go or talk with strangers who accept anything from someone they don’t know. Parents, counselors, police, teachers and health care providers and young adults should read this book. Let’s hope no other teen or young child will become another victim of prostitution and be ONE AMONG US!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ network
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