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The Life I'm In
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The Life I'm In
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The powerful and long-anticipated companion to The Skin I'm In, Sharon Flake's bestselling modern classic, presents the unflinching story of Char, a young woman trapped in the underworld of human...
The powerful and long-anticipated companion to The Skin I'm In, Sharon Flake's bestselling modern classic, presents the unflinching story of Char, a young woman trapped in the underworld of human...
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  • The powerful and long-anticipated companion to The Skin I'm In, Sharon Flake's bestselling modern classic, presents the unflinching story of Char, a young woman trapped in the underworld of human trafficking.

    My feet are heavy as stones when I walk up the block wondering why I can't find my old self.In The Skin I'm In, readers saw into the life of Maleeka Madison, a teen who suffered from the ridicule she received because of her dark skin color. For decades fans have wanted to know the fate of the bully who made Maleeka's life miserable, Char.Now in Sharon Flake's latest and unflinching novel, The Life I'm In, we follow Charlese Jones, who, with her raw, blistering voice speaks the truths many girls face, offering insight to some of the causes and conditions that make a bully. Turned out of the only home she has known, Char boards a bus to nowhere where she is lured into the dangerous web of human trafficking. Much is revealed behind the complex system of men who take advantage of vulnerable teens in the underbelly of society. While Char might be frightened, she remains strong and determined to bring herself and her fellow victims out of the dark and back into the light, reminding us why compassion is a powerful cure to the ills of the world.Sharon Flake's bestselling, Coretta Scott King Award-winning novel The Skin I'm In was a game changer when it was first published more than twenty years ago. It redefined young adult literature by presenting characters, voices, and real-world experiences that had not been fully seen. Now Flake offers readers another timely and radical story of a girl on the brink and how her choices will lead her to either fall, or fly.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 15, 2020
    A troubled African American teen gets caught up in the world of trafficking as she tries to cope with negative feelings about herself. Despite her sister's best efforts, 16-year-old Charlese Jones is still making trouble and getting kicked out of school. Her sister and guardian, JuJu, has had enough and prepares to send her to their grandparents in Alabama. On the bus ride, Char continues to be angry, irreverent, and difficult. She argues with the driver and drinks alcohol she has smuggled in her bag. Still, she interacts with others on the bus, learning their stories and thinking about her own life. When new passenger April and her baby, Cricket, board, they become Char's focus--and then April disappears, leaving Cricket behind. When the man who left with April returns, he takes Char into the dark world of sexual trafficking, a place she begins to think she deserves. Flake follows her groundbreaking novel The Skin I'm In (1998) with a sequel for these times. Char, the antagonist from the first book, is presented here in all her vulnerability, eliciting empathy even as she makes mistakes. The ease with which some prey on vulnerable youth is starkly portrayed, balanced by the efforts of other caring adults to save them. The unflinching narrative is rich in dialogue and detail. A vivid and important depiction of the struggles of too many teens. (author's note, research and resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2020
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* It's been a little more than 20 years since the award-winning The Skin I'm In took the world of young adult literature by storm, and now Flake has returned with a much-desired sister novel. Whereas the first installment follows the life of Maleeka Madison, a 13-year-old Black girl who is bullied into setting her teacher's classroom on fire, the second, picking up right where things left off, unfolds through the perspective of Char, her bully. After Char is expelled from McClenton Middle School, Char's sister, JuJu, has no choice but to send her away to live with their grandparents in Alabama. But what was supposed to be a foolproof transition to a better life and new opportunities for 16-year-old Char quickly spirals as she is pulled into a sex-trafficking circle that all but strips her of who she knows herself to be. Not for the faint of heart, Flake's novel treats Char's experiences with vivid transparency. Char's voice is harrowing as the complexities behind her life and relationships are peeled back, exposing the pain behind her actions and a steadfast resolve to do better. Despite everything she encounters, Char is not alone, as her relationships with both Maleeka and Ms. Saunders evolve in unanticipated and heart-wrenching ways, signaling to readers that it's never too late to try and turn things around. Included is the contact information for the National Human Trafficking Hotline along with a brief discussion of Flake's journey in writing this difficult yet necessary sequel.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 25, 2021
    In this candid, riveting companion to her 1998 novel The Skin I’m In, Coretta Scott King Medalist Flake explores the psyche of Maleeka’s former tormentor, 16-year-old Black orphan Charlese “Char” Jones, who, after consecutive expulsions from four schools, is kicked out by 27-year-old sister Juju. Headed to join her grandparents in Alabama, Char changes Greyhound routes, deciding instead to trail a teen mother and her baby whom she befriends. When the mother abandons her child with Char, fiercely independent Char does her best, acquiring lodging, food, and baby supplies. But when money runs out, she grows desperate—enough to fall prey to smooth-talking Anthony, a man willing to cover all expenses if she joins his prostitution ring. Now all Char wants is to return to Juju, but there’s no escape. Strong first-person narration shows the deterioration of Char’s attitude and self-esteem as she struggles to survive. Representing the plight of many, Char’s narrative presents a cruel underbelly of society; returning readers will relish Maleeka’s and Miss Saunders’s reappearances, but any reader can appreciate this novel’s indelible impact. Ages 14–up.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from April 1, 2021

    Gr 9 Up-Charlese Jones, best known as the bully to Maleeka Madison in Flake's The Skin I'm In, had a great life until her parents' death. After this trauma, her family has a hard time continuing to function and her older sister is named her legal guardian. Char, who is African American, is on a downward spiral and is sent to live with her grandparents. On the way there, she is lured into human trafficking. She must find a way to help herself and the others with her. The powerful idea that you can't understand why a person acts the way they do without fully understanding their story takes center stage in this novel. Teens will be able to connect to Char, and learn from her. The topics discussed are relevant and portrayed realistically, though the book may be triggering for some readers. If they have read the first book the character development will take on a deeper meaning, but this is truly its own story. VERDICT The long-awaited companion novel to The Skin I'm In does not disappoint. Recommend to readers who enjoyed Kim Johnson's This Is My America.-Elizabeth Pelayo, St. Charles East H.S., IL

    Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The Horn Book

    March 1, 2021
    At sixteen, Char (the bully from The Skin I'm In, 1998), who's been expelled from several schools, is on the way to live with her grandparents, sent by her sister in hopes of turning her life around. During the multi-day bus ride (where most of the story takes place), Char decides to try to make it on her own; she also befriends a young mother -- who then disappears from a station, leaving Char with the baby. Char encounters a man named Anthony, who approaches her with money and kind words, but the dangerous motives behind his generosity are quickly revealed. This compelling look into the sex trafficking world through the eyes of a complex protagonist should help to start conversations about the painful realities of many young victims. For Char, the nightmare ends -- thankfully -- when she escapes, and her friends and family begin to help her recover. Back matter includes an author's note explaining Flake's rationale for telling this story, as well as a bibliography. Nicholl Denice Montgomery

    (Copyright 2021 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)

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