Before I read Trafficked, a young adult novel by Kim Purcell, I knew pretty much zero about human trafficking in the United States. I met Kim through a woman I met at BlogHer Writers '11, and when I heard about the subject of her novel, I asked if I could have a copy to review.
Trafficked is the story of Hannah from Maldova, who is called "Elena" by her Russian-American owners, whom she thinks are her employers. Lost yet? So is poor Hannah. She thinks she's in the U.S. legitimately to work as a nanny paid $400 a week to care for kids and do minimal housework. Her parents are dead and her uncle is missing, and her grandmother desperately needs surgery that Hannah's salary can quickly pay for -- she thinks.
When Hannah arrives in her new home, she's shown to a room in the garage, even though there's a guest room in the house. "Minimal housework" quickly becomes "scrub the house from top to bottom daily," and she's not allowed outside except late at night to take out the garbage. Despite the sadness of Hannah's situation, it was fascinating to watch her start to piece together what has happened to her. As she pokes holes in the stories of her captors, I found myself turning the pages faster and faster.
The novel got even more interesting when I read a guest post by Kim Purcell on The Story Siren, describing a research trip she took to Maldova:
I followed her off the bus. Outside, large men in black overcoats swarmed around us. They didn’t look like drivers. Nor did they look like nice Moldovan men coming to pick up their wives. The Moldovans walked past them into waiting cars or walked over to a nearby bus stop to wait. I also attempted to ignore the men as I got off, but they all started yelling at me, telling me in broken English they could help me. I’d experienced this in many countries, but these men were bigger, pushier and more intimidating than what I’d experienced before. Some of the men just stood there, arms crossed over their broad chests, glowering at me. I thought, I’m here to research trafficked girls, not become one of them.
Sort of bone-chilling to find out how many of the scenes in the novel could still be happening -- here in the U.S. in 2012. Trafficked is about an important subject, and Hannah is completely relatable as a young adult who's been dealt a pretty bad hand yet still manages to find good in every day. Skip the scary news articles and learn about human trafficking through Hannah's eyes to see how it could really happen today.