What Unbreakable Looks Like
by Kate McLaughlin

Thank you to Wednesday Books and St. Martins Press for the gifted advance reader copy of What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin!

What Unbreakable Looks Like comes out next month, on June 23, 2020!

Before I get into my review, I would like to say that there are many triggers in this book: human trafficking, sexual assault, violence, and drug use.  Because of these triggers, this book may not be suitable for all readers.

I finished What Unbreakable Looks Like a few days ago, and I still get emotional when thinking about it. Going into it, I had a feeling that this book would absolutely break my heart, but I didn’t know just how much.

What Unbreakable Looks Like is a raw, heavy, and powerful story that addresses the real-life horrors of human trafficking and the sexual assault of teenage girls.  While this book does shine a light on what Lex (who was forced into this lifestyle at the age of sixteen) went through during her time spent being trafficked, this book is so much more than that.  This is a story—Lex’s story—of reclamation.  Yes, Lex experiences extreme instances of denial, anger, regret, and even self-resentment; but with the help of her aunt and uncle, as well as her friends Elsa and Jack, she not only survives, but learns that she can trust others and love herself.

What makes this book so powerful is the way that Kate McLaughlin approaches it.  McLaughlin’s writing is real, honest and blunt, and she does not hold anything back.  More importantly, she doesn’t hide or sugarcoat the horrors of what actual teenagers go through in these types of situations.  Another strong aspect of this book is the characters.  They are just brilliant; they are so well fleshed out and the relationships that develop between them are done gradually, but so beautifully.  They all felt so real, and I am so glad that Lex has found such a great support system in them.

There were so many moments in this book where I wish I was with Lex so that I could scream with her, cry with her, punch a wall or two with her, hug her, and just be there to support her as she discovers who she really is.  Lex is not just a victim, she is a fighter and surviver.  So while this book broke my heart, Lex’s resilience, strength, and hope, put it all back together again.

This is a book that needs to be bought, read, and discussed by all types of readers.  I strongly recommend this one to teachers, parents, and other adults who interact with teenagers on a regular basis.  I also recommend this book to older high school readers, as the conversations that can come out of this book will be life-changing.

Read the full synopsis below:


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 Lex 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 that 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.


This book will be sure to stay with you long after you've read it.

— Rebekah Dolmat

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