Sometimes I feel like books exploit shocking issues to sell more books, but Naked felt like a work that used a sensational topic to introduce a lot of great messages about isolation, empowerment, exploitation, honesty and love. It is a tough read, content wise, but there is more to this book than just a teen prostitute looking to go straight. There are possible rape triggers in this book.
The best place to hide is in a lie…
I could never fit in to the life my parents demanded. By the time I was thirteen, it was too much. I ran away to New York City…and found a nightmare that lasted three years. A nightmare that began and ended with a pimp named Luis. Now I am Dirty Anna. Broken, like everything inside me has gone bad.
Except that for the first time, I have a chance to start over. Not just with my parents but at school. Still, the rumors follow me everywhere. Down the hall. In classes. And the only hope I can see is in the wide, brightly lit smile of Jackson, the boy next door. So I lie to him. I lie to protect him from my past. I lie so that I don’t have to be The Girl Who Went Bad.
The only problem is that someone in my school knows about New York.
Someone knows who I really am.
And it’s just a matter of time before the real Anna is exposed…
The most interesting aspect of this book for me was Anna’s perspective on the guy who sold her for sex. In her mind, he was her savior because he kept her “safe” when she first arrived in New York as a thirteen year old runaway. She didn’t want to testify against him because of some sense of loyalty, and that is a hard concept for a lot of people to understand. I think this book does a good job of helping recreate the complex emotions and experiences that lead to those seemingly inexplicable victim beliefs. I particularly appreciated the fact that one of those experiences wasn’t the typical poverty and broken home that society wants to blame for every evil in the world. As a matter of fact, this book goes a long way towards steering clear of a lot of stereotypes – many of the characters surprised me by making choices that don’t fit the norms, and that is what made this more than just a book about a sensational topic. By introducing the idea that there is no real normal, the author has created a more universal theme that is relevant to a wide audience. I also liked the fact that the author chose to point out that choices have consequences instead of pinpointing a scapegoat for every bad thing that happened. That is an important lesson that everyone has to learn at some point, and it made the book feel more honest. That being said, this isn’t a book for everyone. The dark nature of the central topic makes for a rocky and sometimes depressing read. Writing about social issues often feels too heavy-handed to me, and this book is no exception. The situation is ugly, and it is dramatic. For the most part, I felt like I was able to slip into the story, but there were moments when it read like a crisis pamphlet. I think that is part of writing about issues like this responsibly, so I can accept it when they aren’t too intrusive. The pace is sometimes slow, and Anna’s thoughts seem to be on repeat, which is probably a true assessment of her mental state, but it will bother some readers. While I wasn’t particularly into this book at the beginning, especially before I really understood Anna’s whole dynamic, I found myself pretty impressed by the end. I think my readers who enjoy gritty realism paired with dramatic experiences will enjoy it, particularly fans of Ellen Hopkins or books like Living Dead Girl. Language and situations are mature without being explicit, so it is probably appropriate for most high school readers.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.