Miss America by Suzanne Phillips
|Miss America by Suzanne Phillips|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: At the age of seventeen Chloe was arrested for prostitution. Miss America is the story of her childhood and how her counsellor helped her to come to terms with the tragedy she would rather forget. It's gritty, realistic and a recommended read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: May 2007|
|Publisher: Young Picador|
Chloe Doe was just seventeen when she was arrested for prostitution and sent to the Madeline Parker Institute for Girls. She had no intention of reforming. After all, every job has one or two things about it that aren't pleasant, so Chloe reckoned that her job was no worse than any other. Besides, she was good at it and it meant that she could eat and pay the rent. Doing something better only matters if you care about the future and Chloe very definitely didn't. Then she met Dr Dearborn, her counsellor, who helped her to remember the tragedy she'd been pushing to the back of her mind.
I expected to feel sorry for the heroine, but it's simply not possible. Chloe is a feisty woman who doesn't invite sympathy. What did surprise me is that I felt anger and not just at the situation in which Chloe found herself. I was angry that a girl who had been arrested for prostitution should have to earn points by being well mannered, to buy such basics as soap and toothpaste. I was angrier still that she should be encouraged to flaunt herself in front of a Mexican band to get more points. It struck me that it wasn't that far from the prostitution which the Institution condemned. What infuriated me was the group of religious men who lectured the girls about prostitution, claiming that they did it because they were nymphomaniacs. I was dismayed that the girls were encouraged to try for something better - a lowly job somewhere - but not to have unrealistic expectations.
What saddened me was that Chloe had never had a boyfriend, never had her hand held.
Some books just blow you away and this is one of them. It's a book for teens but this grandmother couldn't put it down. I wanted to buy a copy for everyone I knew and tell them that they had to read it. It's not just a damned good story, although it's certainly that. It's an indictment of how we treat young people, how we let them drop through the cracks and become invisible, of how we fail to protect them when they're vulnerable.
Chloe Doe isn't her real name of course. She took the surname because of its connection with unidentified bodies. Chloe is clever, very clever and that's the first of my pre-conceptions that was knocked on the head. Young people don't always end up on the street, either metaphorically or literally, because they're incapable of anything better. They're there because something happened and this is the only choice left to them.
Fortunately they've found a voice in Suzanne Phillips, a secondary school teacher from California. She has an obvious empathy with teenagers and an understanding of what happens when they are let down. What I loved is the fact that she doesn't patronise the reader at all: this is no dumbed down and sanitised view of prostitution. The details are not sexually graphic, but the reader is left in no doubt about what's involved and the dangers that sex industry workers face. Nobody's son or daughter is going to read this book and think that prostitution is a serious career choice. It's a book for the teen who is sexually aware, where the hormones have kicked in and who is capable of understanding the concept of sex as a commodity. It's a book for any adult.
My thanks to the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Miss America by Suzanne Phillips at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Miss America by Suzanne Phillips at Amazon.com.
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Julia Clark said:
Very well written and made me definately decide to get the book and tell others about it.