Hello, and welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.
But today I’m not starting with a happy story. Last week the BBC showed ‘Three Girls’ over three nights. This was a gripping, harrowing, and horrifying dramatization of the sexual abuse, and other violence, a number of young girls experienced from a group of older men to in a northern town in England. Meanwhile the authorities, with some notable exceptions, stood by passively. Worse, when told about the abuse, they decided it was part of a lifestyle choice by the girls, even though all of them were under the age of consent. It seemed that nobody wanted to take any action against the men because they were Pakistani, and the authorities didn’t want to be accused of racism. Thanks to a determined youth worker, a doughty investigative journalist and the courage of the young victims themselves, cases were eventually brought to court and the abusers sent to prison. But there is a lot more of this out there, and more cases are slowly coming to court.
Why am I telling you this in a blog about YA books? Because in my book, Girl Friends, the narrator, Courtney, is worried about her best friend‘s new boyfriend and the men he is introducing her to. She watches helplessly as her friend grows apart, drops out of school, starts drinking and taking drugs. Only with the help of another girl, who’s ‘been there, done that,’ does she fully understand what is happening. Then it is a question of how to rescue her friend. This being a novel, it all ends happily. If only real life could be like that!
Girl Friends deals with some tricky issues, not just sexual exploitation. It notes in passing that abusers can be white, and vicitms are sometimes black. But it is not a morality tale. It was written as an adventure story and is also funny, with a wry look at teenage angst and friendship, and Courtney’s chaotic family life. It would be great, too, if it gives young teenagers (or their parents or teachers) some insight into how a they or a friend could be sucked into the appalling situation these ‘three girls’ found themselves in, and how to spot the warning signs before it is too late.
Kal comes forward as we enter. Naturally I don’t know what his name is straight away, but I pick this up quickly from the conversation that goes on between Grace, him and the other men who are there. Even when they are not speaking English, it is still possible to pick up the names— Kal, Jayboy, Saqib and Davit. They are all old. Kal is the youngest and he must be at least twenty. I wonder, with mounting panic, which one Grace, or rather Kal—who seems something of a ringleader, or perhaps it’s just because his English is best—has in mind for me. I shrink down into my baggy sweater and pull another strand of hair over my face. This is so not my scene. But Grace seems fine or at least she is putting on a very good act of being relaxed and confident. She greets them all by name and she and Kal engage in a long kiss— tongues and everything. I turn away but Kal, surfacing from the snog looks across at me for the first time and says: “Who’s your little friend?”
Girl Friends is available from Amazon:
It is published by Solstice: http://www.solsticepublishing.com