What Unbreakable Looks Like — Kate McLaughlin

June 17, 2020

What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate  McLaughlinTITLE: What Unbreakable Looks Like
AUTHOR: Kate McLaughlin
GENRE: Contemporary

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If you’re here from Goodreads, the additional piece of my review will be boldfaced at the bottom. I had to leave this part out of my Goodreads review because GR has a rule that prohibits reviewers from stating anything negative about author behaviors within their reviews, and they’ve already threatened to remove my account in the past because I was outspoken enough to mention an author’s abusive behavior.

Given that sex trafficking is such an under-discussed topic that affects so many teens around the world, What Unbreakable Looks Like had endless amounts of potential to be a new favorite for me. I love when authors are willing to tackle dark, important topics such as this — when it’s done well. Unfortunately, this story was quite the disappointing reading experience.

First of all, the writing wasn’t a good fit for me. The dialogue is clunky and unnatural, the pacing is off (and incredibly rushed in the beginning), and the characters feel flat. Lex as a narrator is immensely frustrating because, despite all of these terrible and difficult things happening to her, her emotional responses feel wholly absent. She talks about reacting in certain ways but there’s never any weight to it. It’s honestly rare that I’ve met a main character who struck me as so singularly one-dimensional.

The other issue I had was the author’s usage of AAVE. A bit of slang is one thing, but when your narrator changes into a weird bastardization of AAVE* every time she wants to make herself sound “tough” or edgy, I’m really uncomfortable with that — especially when it’s to such a degree that it feels like a caricature, as is the case here. I saw so few other reviewers fret over the depiction of AAVE & Black characters in this book that I almost second-guessed myself, but I know when something feels wrong in my gut.

The final straw that convinced me to write this review was a Twitter interaction with the author last night. I was talking to a friend about my issues with the book and named the title, but I didn’t name the author or tag her. I can only guess she was searching Twitter for mentions of her book’s title, as within less than two hours, I had an unprompted tweet from the author invalidating my opinions on her usage of AAVE and saying that she was only mimicking what she had heard from the trafficking survivors she interviewed. 

1) As an adult, you can’t implicate blame on a group of teenagers for the fact that your white character’s dialogue feels like a mockery of AAVE and the Black teens you interacted with.

2) As an author, you should never be intruding upon reviewers’ spaces unprompted to criticize their review or invalidate their opinions. 

When I explained to the author why this was unacceptable, she “apologized”, only to IMMEDIATELY post a subtweet on her own twitter about the conversation, which makes me feel like her apology was less than genuine to begin with. I truly hope that she’ll take away a new perspective from our interactions, but her unwillingness to listen to reader concerns and her rush to force her way into a reviewer’s space makes me concerned and totally unwilling to promote this author’s works at this time.

You can view the Twitter conversations here and here if you’d like proof.

Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
content w a r n i n g s →

human trafficking, substance abuse, addiction, parental abuse, 

d i v e r s i t y →


t l ; d r →

This could have been brilliant, but instead, failed my expectations terribly.

1 star


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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. That’s super shady, unprofessional behavior from an author. Sorry you had to deal with that on top of a disappointing read!

    1. first of all, your criticisms seem totally well-placed and make sense. i’m glad you were able to point this out.
      secondly, i saw those interactions on twitter and *yikes*. it was so painful to see the author double down like that and to act like you implied she was “a dick” when you were just criticizing what could be perceived as cultural appropriation — especially when it wasn’t even directed towards her! just so, so bizarre and uncalled for.

    1. I’m so sorry this was disappointing. And that’s so unprofessional by the author. I was actually really excited for this book, but I’m turned off now. The author should know better! Thank you for speaking up and speaking out.

        1. No need to apologize. Seeing reviews like yours is so important! I wouldn’t have known about any of this is you hadn’t wrote it. The author needs to step way back and reevaluate. But she won’t.

    1. I just read a review for this book and was about to add it to my TBR when I saw your review. I’m really glad I did because now I definitely won’t. Thanks for sharing your experience with this author. What she did was totally unprofessional and absolutely makes me question supporting her work, too.

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