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Human trafficking survivor's memoir is grim, tender

Kirkus Reviews
"Beautiful Justice: Reclaiming My Worth After Human Trafficking and Sexual Abuse" by Brooke Axtell

Brooke Axtell, a survivor of sexual abuse and human trafficking, shares her story and healing process in "Beautiful Justice: Reclaiming My Worth After Human Trafficking and Sexual Abuse."

When Axtell, a poet and musician, was a child, her male nanny abused her and sold her to other men for sex. Though she grew up believing the lies she was told by her abusers, part of her knew they weren’t true. While many women have recently stepped forward to tell their stories of abuse or harassment, Axtell’s story is different, as she focuses primarily on her healing and advocates for other women to do the same. “We are not victims, or even merely survivors,” she writes. “We are the new generation of leaders, fiercely devoted to creating a world where our lives are valued. And that begins with valuing our own voices.” The author released some of her pain through dance, writing, and singing, but she also used alcohol and unhealthy sexual relationships to mask her pain. In this candid retelling of her story, Axtell chronicles her traumatic past and the long, continuing road she has traveled to release her grief, fears, and anger and reclaim her sense of strength. Though her story is consistently heart-wrenching, readers will also share in her joy and optimism as she finds effective methods to cope with her anguish. Axtell has gone on to become an advocate for other sex abuse survivors, founding the healing community She Is Rising, and she shares the stories of a few others among her own. Perhaps the most useful section of the book is the end, where Axtell provides readers with the therapeutic techniques, mantras, meditations, and questions she has used to overcome her own pain.

A sometimes grim but ultimately uplifting and tender memoir from a woman who moved beyond victim status and embraced her full potential despite the unimaginable suffering she endured as a child.

'Bird Box' writer delivers another thriller

In a remote patch of forest, in old turreted towers, a group of 24 boys and another group of 25 girls, each assigned letters instead of names, are being raised as part of an experiment without knowledge of the outside world, each other, or the very existence of an opposite sex in Josh Malerman's "Inspection."

The founder of this dark experiment, Richard (aka the boys' D.A.D.), is seeking to develop geniuses by eliminating the distractions of sex. The 12-year-old Alphabet Boys and 11-year-old Letter Girls have been taught that they grew on trees. The possible existence of God is omitted from their lessons and from the lesson-bearing novels that outside writers, including a tortured soul from Milwaukee, are paid to write. For Richard, "obedience trumped religion." Those who aren't obedient, notably boys A and Z and girl J, are taken to a mysterious basement room called the Corner, never to be seen again. But even at the risk of extreme punishment, the male J can't resist sneaking out to investigate his surroundings after the shattering discovery that things his adored D.A.D. is telling him are not true. J's fearless female counterpart, K, whose story converges with his, becomes even more determined to penetrate the lies and hold the so-called Parenthood behind them to account. Though one shocking plot turn is forced and the publisher needlessly gives away what would have been a beautifully orchestrated surprise, this unlikely cross between "1984" and "Lord of the Flies" tantalizes.

Malerman, whose profile was significantly raised by the recent Netflix adaptation of his first novel, "Bird Box," delivers another freaky thriller. The book ultimately lacks real depth but still enhances his reputation as one of today's most unpredictable novelists.

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