Review: Trafficked (Purcell)



AUTHOR: Kim Purcell
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Viking Juvenile
ISBN: 9780670012800
PAGES: 352
SOURCE: ARC from publisher
GENRE: realistic
GIVE IT TO: HS girls and guys, adults

SUMMARY: In the small Eastern European country of Moldova, Hannah and her grandmother have struggled to pay bills since Hannah’s parents were killed in a terrorist bombing years ago. At a cost of $1200, Hannah’s grandmother’s necessary eye surgery seems impossible until one day, Hannah is offered the opportunity of a lifetime–a plane ticket to Los Angeles, California, where Hannah will get to work as a nanny to a doctor’s family for a whopping $400 every week. Despite the warnings that “You are not a product” that Hannah has seen her entire life, Hannah is excited to travel to America where she hopes to take English classes, walk along the beach, and maybe even study to become a doctor.

At first, life in America seems like a dream come true, but Hannah quickly learns that her labor, her body, and even her life now belong to the lucrative human trafficking industry. Forbidden to leave the house, Hannah is forced to work grueling 16-hour days and must sleep in a garage playroom. She must frequently dodge sexual advances from the father of the children she cares for. As time passes, Hannah becomes increasingly lonely and desperate for escape, but as an illegal immigrant without money, documents, or a safe place to go, even sneaking out to talk to the cute boy next-door seems impossible.

REVIEW: Beautifully written with plenty of action, Trafficked hooks readers quickly and keeps them riveted all the way to the heart-pounding finale. Hannah is a believable and sympathetic protagonist, but she is also strong-willed and determined to escape her dire situation. It is easy to see how despite being warned all her life about human trafficking, Hannah is excited for the opportunity to work in America–after all, it’s a suburb in AMERICA. Hannah is used to working hard, and there are laws against human trafficking in America, right? The villains, particularly Paavo and Lillian, represent evil at its purest; like Hannah, readers will suck in their breath when Paavo or Lillian enter the room.

I actually expected the children, Maggie and Michael, to be spoiled and mean-spirited, but like Hannah, they are innocent victims of Lillian’s cycle of wrath and neglect. I especially appreciate how Colin, the teen boy next door, is not described as a drop-dead gorgeous, fearless hero (as the boy so often is in YA books). Although his life is not nearly as complex as Hannah’s, he is a normal American teenager who has problems and insecurities of his own. Colin’s frustrations with his parents contrasts with Hannah’s constant struggle to keep her mind and body her own, which may cause American teens to question whether their own family situations are really as bad as they make them out to be.

An author’s note at the end includes statistics about human trafficking and lists resources for further information.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Middle school librarians, the sexual content is, in my opinion, too high for the general collection. For high school librarians, I recommend it highly. It will be easy to “sell” to students, including reluctant readers. High school librarians concerned about the sexual content might want to read it first, but if I were a high school librarian, I would definitely include it. Teens need to be aware that human trafficking occurs and that situations that seem “too good to be true” probably are.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don’t have it; the content makes it upper-high school.

READALIKES: Nanny Diaries (Emma McLaughlin); Sold (Patricia McCormick)


  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: mild-medium
  • Sexuality: high–references to prostitution and rape; multiple incidents of visual ogling and inappropriate/unwanted touching and sexual advances; one incident of near-intercourse
  • Violence: high–graphic physical assault; references to rape; unwanted sexual encounter
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium–adult characters drink vodka and are sometimes described as drunk

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