Gr 7-12-- This is probably the most thorough treatment of the topic available for this audience; in addition, it is well researched, nonsensational, and evenhanded. Johnson manages to present teenage prostitutes and their desperate plight with clarity and sympathy. The judicious blend of factual material and personal narrative provides good pacing and a human face to all the numbers; furthermore, the author has a way of describing this degrading and hidden way of life in easily understood terms. There is a five-page bibliography and full source notes, welcome inclusions in YA nonfiction. There are two minor problems, however. The use of statistics to document the extent and growth of the problem is not very useful, since the range of figures quoted is so vast as to be irrelevant (63,000-850,000). Coverage also suffers from a lack of historical and international perspective; chapter two meanders off into anecdotes about selling Chinese babies instead of firmly grounding teen prostitution in the historical treatment of children and in the status of women. This missing background may leave readers with the impression that teen prostitution has only become a serious problem in the last 20 years. Overall, however, most aspects of the subject are well covered here. Excellent for reports and very current. --Kathy Fritts, Jesuit High School, Portland, OR
A powerful, disturbing look at a social problem Johnson feels is still too often swept under the rug, this explores what makes teens turn to prostitution and what keeps some turning tricks even after they have a chance to escape street life. Johnson looks first at why kids leave home, explaining the concept of "throwaway" children as well as various kinds of family situations that prompt teens to run away. Considering prostitutes of both sexes, she deals frankly with the reasons kids turn tricks, exploring the selling of sex as a means of basic survival as well as a psychological response. There's also an eye-opening chapter about pimps (there are different kinds) that explains clearly how pimps use such things as drugs or a young girl's tendency toward "magical thinking" to lure new recruits. While the author is straightforward about the fact that kids sometimes have a better chance to survive on the streets than at home, she leaves no doubt about what they're up against every day on the street or about the long-term consequences of prostitution. Comments from teens provide stark reinforcement to Johnson's words, and the book is heavily documented with references to popular-press articles as well as more scholarly publications. Teenagers who've seen prostitution glamorized on TV and in films will come away with a distinctly different picture of what selling sex really means and how easily kids can become victims--even prisoners. Johnson's final chapter offers some hope by focusing on a few of the more successful programs for prostitutes and other street kids, but a more comprehensive listing would have been helpful. Black-and-white photos make the kids' plight all too real.