General: I'll be honest. When I picked this book out at the library, I didn't read the summary too well. When I got home and picked it up to start reading it, well, let's say I was in for a little surprise. Being a high schooler, my parents are pretty strict about what I read. So when I realized what this book was REALLY about--heroin and prostitution...well, let's say I nearly put it down. But I decided to read it instead, and promised myself I would put it down if it got too bad. But I'm happy to say, it didn't. The author, Kevin Brooks, tackled this tough subject with skill. He didn't take advantage of the opportunity to throw in terribly foul language or a random sex scene, and I greatly admire and respect that. I mean seriously. Prostitution? But Brooks skillfully and masterfully opened my eyes to the horrors of that world--without horrifying my own parents.
Plot: So I began reading this and...I was immediately writing off this book as just a weird book. Because believe me, the beginning is really weird. At least, I found it to be so. The main character, Joe, meets the alternate main character, Candy, and he immediately becomes obsessed (to an unhealthy level) with this girl. All the while unaware that Candy is, in actuality, selling her body in exchange for drugs from her "pimp", Iggy, a controlling and violent man. Candy's history with this shocking "profession" is one of bullying and pain in her childhood. She met Iggy and he made her feel special and loved, telling her what she needed to hear. All too soon, he had her hooked on some pretty powerful drugs. But when Iggy ran out of money to purchase the drugs, he pressured Candy (real name, Candice) into selling the one thing she could for drugs--her body. She's ashamed and hurting...but Iggy turned out not to be the loving and kind guy she thought he was, and now she's trapped in this downward spiral she regrets to call her life.
After a few chapters the book certainly was looking much better, and less...um...odd. And then, in one chapter, with astonishing speed, the book picked up faster than I had time to think about it. And from then on, I was hooked on this book. Once it got, well, EXTRA INTENSE, I could NOT put it down.
Characters: I have to tell the truth. When we first learned about Candy and her secret life, I immediately decided I didn't like this girl, and that Joe needed to get himself away from her, quickly as possible, and as soon as possible. But then, when she tells her story, I realized. She's just a girl. She's a girl who made a few wrong decisions for a guy who manipulated her into feeling loved and special so he could get himself some cash, and some drugs. And she wants out. And you could feel it. I could feel the ache in Candy's heart to be free. I could feel her pangs of regret for getting with Iggy in the first place. And that was utterly heartbreaking and tremendously wonderful to be a part of, considering the skill Kevin Brooks has in his writing.
Joe is a harder character to figure out. He's complicated. Once he meets Candy, he loses his sense of loyalty. No longer does he sees things in black and white. He was kind of a naive boy before he met Candy. Now, his knowledge is more than he seems to know what to do with. But Candy means everything to him. He's willing to do anything to get her free. Free from Iggy, free from prostitution, and free from the grip heroin has on her. It's beautiful, honestly.
All in all, I can't even think of the right words to sum up this book. It's powerful, it's gripping, it's beautiful, it's thrilling. It's the promise of "forever". It's unstoppable love. It's danger. It's mistakes and plans, hopes and heartbreak. It's disturbing, it's provocative, it's enthralling, and it's awe-inspiring. This novel isn't an easy one to forget.