It Happened on Saturday

Jolly Fish. Feb. 2023. 272p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781631636943.
Gr 5-8–Julia is entering eighth grade and feels her world shifting; her best friend Nori has a boyfriend and so does Julia’s older sister. Other friends have moved away. Her craving for attention and affection is at an all-time high, so when Danielle offers to give Julia a makeover, she accepts and is in awe at the transformation. She posts a photo on social media and is instantly inundated with compliments, including one from Tyler, whom she doesn’t know. When Tyler messages her privately, she knows she should not respond, but does so anyway. Tyler and Julia quickly form a connection. He floods her with attention, gifts, and expensive meals, ultimately trapping her in a hotel room for a trafficker. Unbelievably, Julia gets rescued by the authorities. The latter portion of this simply written story deals with Julia’s shame about the events and her steps to overcome the trauma, closing with her sharing the story with her friends to prevent them from being subjected to the same fate. While the romantic and trafficking content is for more mature middle grade students, the writing style makes this feel like a cautionary tale for younger readers about what not to do when they grow up. The message about not interacting with strangers online is important, but the novel does neglect to mention or represent that white middle class girls from solid homes (Julia’s demographic) are not the most vulnerable to trafficking.
VERDICT Adults concerned about online behaviors may wish to share this story with middle schoolers, but a conversation about the realities of human trafficking would be required to truly do this topic justice.

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