Smuggled by Angela Karanja

Smuggled by Angela Karanja
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

How a Talent Trip turned into a Trafficking Trip – Whoosh! – just like that she was gone!

Tuliana was 14 and had lived in her home country of Kenya with different people, in different places, at different times, for as long as she could remember. Then, out of the blue, she was ushered onto a plane with a group of teenagers and flown out of Kenya.

At a London airport she was separated from the group and whisked off in a car. Her experiences after this were creepy: she didn’t know where she was, or why.

Firstly, she was delivered to a home where she was grossly mistreated. Then to another where she wasn’t treated badly but she definitely didn’t belong. Finally, to another where she was treated really well – yet enslaved. In all those homes she was a slave – a modern day child slave.

Tuliana’s teen friend, Jonathan, whom she met on the plane during this Talent Trip was painfully worried. On returning to Kenya, Jonathan went to extremes to try find her – literally sacrificed his privileged life as a son of a British diplomat. He was thrown out of his family and the country and shipped back to live with his paternal grandparents in England.

Being kicked out only increased his motivation and efforts to find Tuliana. Jonathan mobilised teenagers from all over the world to join his “Operation Find Tuliana” campaign. The campaign picked momentum fast and began unsettling government systems. Teenagers were asking deep penetrating questions, demonstrating and disrupting status quo and stirred world leaders to STOP and LISTEN as teenagers demanded for ACTION not just TALK.

This campaign ignited bravery and vigilance among regular citizens who raised concerns and reported suspicious cases which led to the discovery of numerous children who were being exploited and abused up and down the country. Some children were living as full-fledged slaves, others as part times slaves – all, modern-day child slaves.

Tuliana was also unearthed having been illegally adopted in a supposedly “good family” but nevertheless a slave- the Cash cow for this family’s business.

Everyone should be aware of the warning signs of human trafficking, including teenagers.

The pacing was strong, exciting, and easy to follow. It had a conversational writing style that could appeal to teens and adults alike. There was never a good place to stop reading which is always something I like to see in what I read. It was fun to anticipate what might happen next to the characters when I needed to step away and take care of other business.

I would have liked to see more character development both in the sense of describing people’s personalities and habits as well as in the sense of showing how they grew and changed as a result of their experiences. Ms. Karanja did a good job of creating backstories, especially when it came to Tuliana, but there wasn’t as much time spent on what Tuliana and the other characters who interacted with her were like as individuals. This makes it hard for me to describe their personalities with specific terms like shy, friendly, silly, intellectual, or any of the many other words that can give a reader a sense of what it would be like to meet that particular character in real life.

Some of my favorite passages were the ones that explored the many ways vulnerable people can be convinced to trust a stranger and travel to unknown places with them. While kids and teenagers are generally more susceptible to this than adults are, the techniques that were used could easily lure older folks into dangerous circumstances, too. I appreciated the way the author presented these scenarios to the audience without interrupting the flow of the plot. She trusted us to pick up on why they could be early signs that something was going terribly wrong without further commentary, and that made her story stronger.

Smuggled discussed an important issue in an accessible and interesting way.

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