What Unbreakable Looks Like – Kate McLaughlin

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four stars black
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary 
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Pages: 336
Release Date: June 23, 2020

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.


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.

If you read the description for this novel, then you probably know if comes with trigger warnings. So, for posterity, trigger warnings for human trafficking, sexual assault, violence, and substance abuse.

When I was offered the chance to review What Unbreakable Looks Like, I jumped on it since I assumed it would have a similar impact on me that Sadie by Courtney Summers did. I was not wrong. What Unbreakable Looks Like is a raw and unflinching look at human trafficking and the trauma it inflicts. What makes this novel stand out is its setting and main character. When most people think of human trafficking they may think about the seedy places in Europe or third world countries. What Unbreakable Looks Like presents readers with a young white girl in the United States recovering from being trafficked in the city she grew up in.

What Unbreakable Looks Like has scenes that are difficult to read, but are never gratuitous. McLaughlin walks a fine line of heavily implying what’s happening to the main character without ever describing all the horrific details. So, if you’re worried about heavily descriptive scenes you don’t have to be.

What Unbreakable Looks Like highlights the need for healthy coping mechanisms and a strong support system. McLaughlin doesn’t sugar coat the recovery process by allowing the main character, Lex, to adopt healthy coping mechanisms right away and heal. Instead, Lex stumbles often and if it weren’t for her support system she may have reverted to her life of being trafficked. This novel highlights the importance of a support system, but not just for individuals who have faced significant trauma. A good and healthy support system is important for any person regardless of their trauma.

Overall, What Unbreakable Looks Like is a raw and unflinching look at human trafficking and its trauma. Human trafficking is not just a problem overseas, but right here in our own backyards. McLaughlin does not shy away from the horrific experiences these women experience. What Unbreakable Looks Like is definitely worth the read.

*** I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Early Praise:
“With unflinching honesty, What Unbreakable Looks Like exposes the injuries and scars we wear on our skins or in our souls. Hidden damage is tragically common, but helpful others who dared embrace hope invite Alexa to step onto the healing path. This novel may offer a springboard for a reader’s own healing or foster empathy for life’s walking wounded.” – Liz Coley, author of international bestseller Pretty Girl-13

“Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin’s thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma.” – Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project

“This is a powerful book about a sobering topic that I found myself thinking about for days after I completed it. It is wonderfully poignant, painfully real, and even laugh out loud funny at times. Not everyone can truly wrap their minds around the trauma these victims endure and yet somehow, despite all of it, are still just regular kids. But Kate McLaughlin gets it. ‘Lex’ is truly what unbreakable looks like and you’ll fall in love with her spirit.” – Tanya Compagnone, Trooper First Class

“Sex trafficking continues to seep into all our communities. In this novel, Kate McLaughlin brings to life the trauma that transpires in youth who forced into the life of sex trafficking. Her novel is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in someone’s life.” – Dina R. St. George, MSW, Juvenile Re-Entry Unit OCPD

Kate McLaughlinAuthor Bio:
KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She’s the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like.
Social link: https://twitter.com/alterkates

Buy Link: https://wednesdaybooks.com/the-real-deal/what-unbreakable-looks-like/

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