13 must-read June YA book releases to start your summer off right

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee. Image Courtesy Page Street Publishing
Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee. Image Courtesy Page Street Publishing /
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What Unbreakable Looks Like – Kate McLaughlin

This harrowing story about a girl in recovery from being sex trafficked is perhaps dark and difficult subject matter for a summer reading book list. But it’s an important enough story that it belongs here.

When Lex was taken, she became Poppy. But now that she’s been rescued – from her pimp and the hellish hotel where she was held – she’s not quite sure how to reconnect to the girl she used to be before her nightmarish experience. And despite the best efforts of her family, friends, and new puppy, she’s not confident she ever will be.

Told in the first person, this novel frankly discusses rape, coercion, drugs, and abuse, allowing Lex to recount her story on her own terms and try to process what her life will look like going forward. Naturally, she’s a deeply scarred character and her journey is by no means an easy one. Yet, her resilience and grit are uplifting, and the story is an ultimately hopeful one in spit of all the darkness involved.

The official synopsis has more details.

"Lex was taken – trafficked – and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again. After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things. But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love."

What Unbreakable Looks LIke is available on June 23.