One Among Us was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
This is a book that could have gone a lot of different ways. The subject matter is very, very dark; about as dark as it comes. Human trafficking is a subject that everyone needs to talk about, but no one wants to discuss. There was a delicate balance here of how descriptive the text can be vs. should be. Some people will love One Among Us for that and others will criticize the book for it. In its own way, this leaves some aspects of the book open to interpretation.
How you interpret One Among Us will largely depend on if you view it as a work of fiction or as something more real. Paige Dearth seems to have intended to readers to fall into the second category. The book is nowhere near as graphic as it could have been, which makes general audiences more likely to read it. From a fictional standpoint, there were some things the story could have done better. For the large page number, each chapter is very short (I do not think any exceeded 10 pages). Some of these lead right into each other while others skips days, weeks, or months ahead. Time skips are necessary since the story takes place over a near-decade, but the short chapters make characterization hard. Few characters are present for the whole book and the less seen ones all seemed two-dimensional. The stereotypical drug addict, pimp, detective, etc.
From a more real-world point of view, these decisions are understandable. Horrible things happen to a lot of people in One Among Us, but “crap happens” is not the intended message. It is true that many parts of this book are unrealistic. Are some of the characters a bit flat? Yes. Do we really need to see that the drug hustler/pimp has a little good in him? No, not really. Some people do lack morality to varying degrees. Life does often get worse before it gets better and sometimes it just gets worse. Parts of the book do feel a bit forced as we seem to mainly see Maggie’s life when big events are happening. A few “normal” bits might have made those big moments feel more dramatic and helped with further characterization, but again I do not believe that was Paige Dearth’s main point in writing this.
Personally, I found it hard to put this book down and ignored other hobbies to squeeze in extra reading time. The key thing to remember while read this is: This actually happens. Somewhere, right now, even here in the United States and other first world countries, this is happening to someone. Many someones. One Among Us is not a perfect work of fiction, but Paige Dearth is not trying to create a perfect work of fiction. She is trying to get that message out to more people so that real children and young adults like Maggie can be helped. The bottom line of this book can be summed up in one word: hope. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Paige Dearth’s other novels in the future to see if she addresses similar subject matters just as well as she did this one.