The best place to hide is in a lie... I could never fit in to the life my parents demanded. By the time I was thirteen, it was too much. I ran away to New York City...and found a nightmare that lasted three years. A nightmare that began and ended with a pimp named Luis. Now I am Dirty Anna. Broken, like everything inside me has gone bad. Except that for the first time, I have a chance to start over. Not just with my parents but at school. Still, the rumors follow me everywhere. Down the hall. In classes. And the only hope I can see is in the wide, brightly lit smile of Jackson, the boy next door. So I lie to him. I lie to protect him from my past. I lie so that I don't have to be The Girl Who Went Bad. The only problem is that someone in my school knows about New York. Someone knows who I really am. And it's just a matter of time before the real Anna is exposed...
Anna’s voice is pitch perfect from page one. She grew up in a nice household with plenty of money, but her father’s harsh (and possibly related to his Puerto Rican heritage, as the novel implies) discipline over the smallest things turned her into a rebel. Sneaking out, having sex with boys she shouldn’t,… Sounds normal enough for a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old, but she did all that while she was twelve. Twelve-year-olds probably did that both in the past and in the present, but that is still extremely screwed up. No one is ready for sex at twelve or thirteen or fourteen. Ever. We rarely get explicit descriptions of what life with her family was like before she ran away, but we get a good understanding of what motivated her escape. Sure, it seems like a ridiculous overreaction, but we tend to forget what it means to be twelve/thirteen for a good reason. All of us–all of us–were horrible and illogical then.
The deconstruction of her relationship with Luis, the twenty-something pimp who picked her up practically as soon as she arrived in New York and kept her for three years, is without a doubt the strongest element of the novel. Anna keeps a good opinion of him despite the fact he pimped her out and later sold her to another pimp, but as she starts to question exactly what their relationship was, her Stockholm Syndrome comes unraveled. The scenes of her at Luis’s trial are enough to make you tear up in happiness on her behalf.
What Left Me Wanting:
Still, the story comes with a few holes and major sticking points like writing that relies on cliches. Despite it being implied the Rodriguez family is regularly in the community spotlight due to the father’s obsession with their family image, there are no story-hungry journalists–and there are always journalists around for a story like Anna’s. Anna’s love interest Jackson is sweet but far from the kind of person she needs in her life if he thinks being/being called a prostitute is worse than being/being called a murderer or rapist. His remark is hardly intended that way, but it’s very hard to want someone who thinks like this to be in a relationship with a former prostitute who is still trying to pull herself together and come to terms with what she had to do.
Naked‘s approach to sex work/prostitution is also very shallow. There’s no discussion of how the intersections of identity play into who is in sex work (women of color like Anna are about forty percent of prostitutes but fifty-five percent of those arrested/eighty-five percent of those prosecuted) and street prostitution vs. indoors prostitution (parlors, brothels, etc.). Naked has the ability to go much deeper in its analysis of sex work. While Anna rightfully recognizes all acts of sex she engaged in as rape explicitly on multiple occasions in her head (she is a minor, after all), she proceeds to treat her acts as consensual at all other points for the sake of what feels like forced dramatics.
Naked is a strong, voice-driven read about one teen’s recovery from her time as a prostitute and a brilliant debut novel from Stacey Trombley. However, search elsewhere for a more nuanced novel involving prostitution. Arguments for its legalization are all over the Internet and could give readers a great deal of food for thought.
*deconstructing Anna's Stockholm Syndrome
*strong story of healing oneself