Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a dark and gritty contemporary fiction about a 17 year-old girl in Oakland, CA struggling to take care of herself and older brother. It’s based on the true story of a young girl that was sexually abused by a group of police officers. The abuse was difficult to read at times, but it’s an important story to read and is further evidence of how broken the system is at times.

Kiara and her brother Marcus are barely surviving. Their father is dead and their mother is in prison. Kiara scrambles to pay the rent while Marcus tries to make it as a rapper. When their rent increases, and the nine year-old next door is abandoned by his mother, Kiara feels the pressure to keep it together. With little options available to her, she turns to prostitution to earn money. An encounter with a stranger at a bar changes her life forever. The stranger was a police officer and Kiara finds herself passed around from officer to officer, summoned to parties to entertain them, sometimes paid and oftentimes not. When the situation comes to light, Kiara is caught in the investigation and is compelled to cooperate as a witness.

This book is written in a way that made it feel like the author was sitting in my living room telling me a story. It was a bit stiff and dispassionate, but if someone were telling you this story, that’s how you’d expect it to be told. To do otherwise would break them. Some of the conversations were stilted, some of the scenarios that were depicted didn’t seem to have any point to the overall story, and it was depressing to read because nothing good ever seemed to happen. But that’s the point, after all. It’s not a happy tale – it’s raw and gritty and awful. I had not heard of this scandal before I read the book. Since then I have read several articles about it and am shocked by what I read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing. All opinions are my own.