Author: Pamela Samuels Young

Publisher: Goldman House Publishing, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5305-2897-4

The first sad detail that caught my attention in this riveting narrative is the inability of a 14-year-old boy, who is arrested at school for “sexting,” to call his father. He doesn’t know his number, which is stored in “favorites” on his confiscated phone. This frightened child is alone in the Internet age, hopelessly dependent on one-click technology.

In a fast-paced novel of 300 informative pages, Pamela Samuels Young (an attorney) explains how an A-student who naively downloaded a photo of a nude classmate could be tried on possession of child pornography, which threatens to brand him for life as a registered pedophile. Graylin Alexander would likely be considered a victim by most adults, as he didn’t ask for the photo; it just appeared on his phone via Snapchat. He didn’t even know who sent it. His mistake was taking a screen shot before the original disappeared, to show a friend. His story represents what is happening now all over America and perhaps all over the digitally-connected world. Usually a kid caught would be embarrassed – or perhaps not - but would he be reported to the police by the school principal? And would the police be tough on him? The answer is that in some states there is “the protocol” that schools must follow, and since sexting attracts pedophiles, some legal authorities feel the need to set an example. That a well-behaved boy with a promising future could be sacrificed to scare others is just one harsh reality that this terrifying novel exposes to describe our ambivalent society, in which sexual behavior is encouraged by merchants, flaunted, and then punished.

Incorporated into Graylin’s story is the abduction of young girls for purposes of prostitution. The danger comes from a network of criminals inside and outside prisons. Angela Evans, a criminal defense attorney, is the series’ main character and one of two women who defend Graylin. Angela’s boyfriend, Dre, is a reformed drug addict, and best buddy of Gus, the father of Graylin. He also is the uncle to Brianna, a 13-year-old who recently was kidnapped and rescued. Dre helped put the villain, called The Shepherd, in a low security facility, but from behind those walls the violent pimp is still running his business, thanks to the corruption of the penal system. Word is out that The Shepherd plans to have Brianna taken again, just to get back at Dre. And Dre, in spite of risks to his own life, would like to murder him. This secret wish creates an underlying tension between Angela and Dre. Dre’s temptation gives the reader entrée into a darker world which can get uncomfortable for a reader whose knowledge of prison culture is next to nil.

The story unfolds from multiple points of view, which demands close attention, but provides wide illumination on the whole complexity of the matter. It doesn’t require the reader to draw a sociogram. It doesn’t matter that the major characters are affluent professionals and African American who want decent lives for their children, and other African Americans are bad parents. It doesn’t matter what “races” represent the bad guys who want power or payback, or the indecisive jerks who serve them just to survive. What matters is that we can’t count on the guys we expect to be good to do good, or, if they are good, to win against venal crime. Each voice expresses loss in this environment of monetizing sex. We are left with a hollow feeling of helplessness. How can we protect our children?

This author’s exposure of twisted juvenile justice and the misguided legal authorities that twisted it is a starting point – if the right people will only read the novel as more than fiction. As Graylin’s first defense attorney, Jenny Ungerman, says: “… the average parent doesn’t have a clue.” Then Angela says: “Attorneys don’t work for free, especially not the good ones.” Most parents of kids who end up in “juvie” are at the mercy of public defenders, who may not be as sympathetic or as clever as Angela Evans and Jenny Ungerman.

Pamela Samuels Young is more than an established writer of legal thrillers. She is “a passionate advocate for sexually exploited children.” With her clear writing style and insider’s information, this author compels the reader to take action. There is a list of questions for group discussion, such as, “When is the earliest age a child should be allowed to have a cell phone?” and “How do you feel about the fact that, in many states, the police can question a child without parent permission?” These are not easy questions to answer. You can’t make rules without talking about underlying beliefs and morals, and you can’t impose beliefs and morals on a diverse group of Americans whose one common expectation is that we offer a “free” society. You have to inspire a larger vision.