Thank you NetGalley and Wednesday Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: 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 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. (Amazon)
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Genre: Contemporary / YA
Rating: 5 stars
***BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS***
After reading the synopsis for this book, I knew that it was going to be moving.
Starting with a whisper and building to a crescendo, the voice of Lex is a beautiful and heartbreaking thing. This is a young woman who has seen and felt everything horrible that can be inflicted upon a person, and survived. But the most amazing thing about her is that no matter how much she thinks that the life has been beaten out of her, no matter the scars that mark her inside and out, she still has hope. Lex's hope is what eventually brings her alive.
When I started reading, I began with the impression that the character of Alexa was going through the motions. There was a lot of almost rushing through the paces: she was broken out of the motel alongside the other girls by the police raid, she was taken to the hospital, her aunt was brought in, she was taken to a house of rehabilitation... It was fact after fact, and it seemed as if not enough introspection was being inserted to make me connect. But as I started to get to know Lex, I saw the brilliance of this.
Alexa compartmentalizes her emotions and thoughts. She trained herself to do this in order to hold on to the scrap of life that she had. If she feels too much, or at all sometimes, she falls apart. Her entrance into a new home, and her introduction to new friends and a new family, is what finally gets her to open up little by little. It's something that happens at a slow and tenuous progress, and the writing shifts perfectly because of this. Suddenly Lex's thoughts, ideas and feelings begin to make more of an appearance. And as fragile as they are, we get to know her better. That's when we really begin to feel the trauma and tragedy that is her life. From here on out, the story won me over.
After the torture that Lex is put through, the people that are put into her life are a gift. And I certainly understand her mistrust at first. It's all too good to be true, that's the only thing that she has been taught to know. Her sweet aunt Krys and kind uncle Jamal, the new friend Elsa from across the street, and the boy who becomes her protector, Zack. These four people are the main front that stand by Alexa, and the patience and support that they lend her is so good in its simplicity, without any restrictions or anything expected in return, that in a way it rekindles your belief that there really are good people out there. And it's a little sad, this realization that you have alongside the lead.
I think that, due to the nature of the abuse that Lex goes through, her relationship with Zack is one of the most important ones in the novel. Their attachment, as it grows, is such a beautiful but frail thing to behold. And again, because of what Alexa is accustomed to, she purposefully attempts to destroy that more than once. This is what she knows, this is what she is accustomed to and what she believes—despite what she really wants—that Zack is after: to use her. Every time that that boy pushed her away, while remaining by her, was not just a point in his favor but a new way for Lex to realize that she deserves more, and that she is not going to be the broken thing that she believes herself to be.
Despite her initial reluctance, she wants to not just survive, but to live.
Overall, What Unbreakable Looks Like is very character driven. Through this cast and their development, the story grows and reaches its satisfying finish. There are moments when justice is certainly served, but there is also a lot of loss along the way. I cried a few times—this novel is going to make you cry or at least get the reader teary-eyed, it's almost impossible for someone not to be sentimental—and there were moments when it was difficult to read through the things that not only Poppy went through, but the other girls as well. In the end, however, it's all worth it.
Inspirational, raw, difficult to put down and poignant, this novel stays with you well after you finish.
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