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Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets Paperback – June 25, 2013
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“This devastatingly honest memoir is not for the fainthearted . . . Kafka famously wrote, ‘A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.’ Runaway Girl just might become such a book. [Phelps] gives the reader valuable insight into a problem that is larger than most people realize.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Phelps is a success . . . [a] remarkable story.”
“Carissa Phelps’s story illustrates the power each of us has to speak the words that are the difference between life and death, freedom and imprisonment, success and failure. Carissa is brilliant. She’s changing our world for the better, not despite what she’s been through, but specifically because of it.”
—Rhonda Sciortino, radio host of Crack the Code and author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through
“Riveting . . . A genuinely important book that casts the problem of sex trafficking in America into stunning, heartbreaking relief.”
“Runaway Girl may break your heart but I promise it will ultimately awe and inspire you. No child should have to endure what Carissa did, but thousands do. Her story is a testimony to the resilience of these children and the difference a caring individual can make in their lives. If you have any doubts whether one person can make a difference in the life of a traumatized, ‘delinquent,’ young person, Runaway Girl should put them to rest.”
—Dr. Howard Zehr, professor of restorative justice, Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, and author of What Will Happen to Me?
“Runaway Girl demonstrates a great amount of insight and maturity. Crisp writing and perfectly chosen events highlight the story of what happens to the majority of twelve-year-olds on the street.”
—School Library Journal, selected as a Best Adult Books for Teens of the Year
“As a captivating account of the triumph of a battered heart, Runaway Girl is truly a modern profile in courage, a spiritual odyssey, and a riveting read. Any child who experienced the trauma that Carissa Phelps so poignantly portrays will gain comfort, encouragement, and hope in reading this book.”
—Paul Freese, Public Counsel Law Center
“A brave memoir.”
“What happens to the thousands of kids every year in the United States who are forced to leave home? Many of them are find themselves in the same situation Carissa Phelps did: fallen between the cracks in foster care and forced by a vicious exploiter to walk the streets. With courage, insight, and unflinching honesty, Carissa reveals the truth about her life as a runaway, bringing to light the many issues facing homeless youth while providing them with a beacon of hope to follow. I want everyone who cares about our country’s young people to read this book.”
—Janice Erlbaum, author of Girlbomb
“This book is provocative in the best sense of the word: it incites readers to help. . . . Runaway Girl is an effective, socially aware book that offers unique insight into one woman’s personal experiences with trauma and recovery and her journey to find herself in a difficult, frightening, and ultimately supportive world.”
—Katie Shaeffer, BookshelfBombshells.com
“With not a trace of victimhood or unplaced drama, this is a terrific addition to all collections."
—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA
“Runaway Girl should be required reading for anyone with kids, especially girls, in their lives.”
—Jesika Long, Jesikalong.Tumblr.com
“Runaway Girl is both a cautionary tale about the realities of sex-trafficking in the U.S. and an inspirational story of the change that is possible with the help of others. A very important read for both parents and teenagers.”
—Vera Pereskokova, SheKnows.com
About the Author
Larkin Warren’s recent book collaborations include Mary Forsberg Weiland’s Fall to Pieces andElyn R. Saks’s bestselling The Center Cannot Hold.
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 25, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143123335
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143123330
- Item Weight : 9 ounces
- Dimensions : 1 x 5.4 x 8.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #125,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It wasn’t long before Phelps dreams of freedom became a nightmarish hell. A few days later she encountered Icey and his battered, very pregnant girlfriend, who told Phelps that “she was too young to be running the streets.” But he was no youth outreach worker: He was a pimp, and it wasn’t long before he put Phelps to work.
It was with Icey that Phelps encountered the worst traumas of her life. She was raped by her customers, and brutalized by Icey until he was arrested on some warrants. As he was driven away in the squad car, he blew Phelps a kiss, and was never seen by her again.
In the ensuing years Phelps went from pillar to post, back to her parent’s home, to juvie, and back on the streets again. More trauma and more rapes, with drugs and drink to ease the pain of it all. It took the kindness of counselors, teachers, and mentors for her to heal from her trauma, and to begin her work helping kids who are lost, alone, and victims of sex trafficking.
“Runaway Girl” is a heartbreakingly sad read. Her brutalization by Icey and of others she encountered will make you cry, because it’s just too real “My mouth is too small, I’M too small.” Phelps’s despair is felt by readers when her mother’s need to save face took precedence over comforting her daughter, who had just told her that she was brutalized by a pimp. At 12 “I wasn’t even worth comforting or shedding tears over.” Her story is also inspiring, as we see Phelps confront the role she played in her struggles, and how she forgave herself and ones who abused her.
“Runaway Girl” is a book of hope, and shows how readers can be change agents to at-risk youths. Phelps’s faith in God was pivotal to her growth and her healing, which is evident in Runaway Girl. She does not proselytize readers, but at times Runaway Girl reads like a book you buy at the Megachurch bookstore after hearing its guest speaker. That said, the book is somewhat repetitive and drags on, hence the 3 stars. A decent read, overall.
Carissa was raised in a very large family and was not as cared for as she should have. When she is away from home too often and her mom doesn't know what to do, she is dropped off in juvie and left there for a few days before she does her best to survive on the streets. This process is painful and terrible. She endures a lot of tough situations that is both hard to read about and hard for her to recount, I am sure.
The descriptions throughout this book are really impressive. I felt as if I understood her feelings in the situations she recounts. I do think that this could have been shortened at times. I am glad she loves math as much as she does, but she focused too much on math which boggles and hurts my mind, so it is my fault, not hers. I think there were times where she repeated things a bit too, I suppose to reestablish the feeling of it. I suppose we repeat memories to people time and time again too.
Overall, I give this book a 3.5 star rating!
This book opens the door for people from all walks of life to partially understand life on the streets in America, but also may be especially helpful for at-risk youth who are flirting with dangerous forces such as substance abuse and human trafficking.
I choose this book mostly because I saw it featured in the email version of my hometown newspaper (San Luis Obispo, CA, where Carissa Phelps lives now). Also, she spent her life in the central valley towns I'm familiar with: Avenal, Fresno, and her hometown of Coalinga. But I had no idea what went on behind the doors and on the dark streets. Wow.
For all the darkness revealed, you'll come away uplifted and encouraged, because that's who Carissa is. Her description of growing up in the poorer part of town is tempered by her child's view of "that's just the way it is." She made the best of it. But then, things got tough...and tougher.
Another reviewer said Carissa just made things worse by continually running away. True, but I can't even imagine dealing with the things she did: the distrust of adults; the rules; the uncaring people. How does someone 11 or 12 even begin to figure that out? We can't look at it with our decades of life behind us and say, "She should have just..."
I loved the way she wove God and faith through the book in small doses.
And, although we knew the outcome due to her bio, I never felt like I knew what was coming next, how she'd react to the next challenge. Would she run again? Even after the last words, is she still running sometimes?
This is a powerful, fascinating look into the life of a girl, young woman, adult, who was dealt a rotten hand, and made her way through by sheer determination and the helping hands of a few who cared along the way. It left me believing I can make a difference.
Very well done, Carissa Phelps!