A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dime is a realistic, eye-opening depiction of teen prostitution and trafficking. This is not a book for young or sensitive readers. The main character, Dime, is a smart, kind girl in the foster system. Troubles with her foster mom leave her on the street in the middle of winter. A seemingly kind pimp named Daddy takes her in, leading her into a life of prostitution. Characters are physically and emotionally abusive, with frequent slapping and beatings, some severe. Characters are raped. Characters are threatened with a knife and a gun. There are depictions of live-feed child pornography and prostitution and a graphic childbirth scene. Sex, though not graphic, is frequent both on the page and off, especially between johns and prostitutes. Drug use, including heroin and pot, is referred to but not shown. "Bitch" and "ho" are used frequently. Other swear words include "s--t," "f--k," and "motherf--ker."
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What's the story?
DIME tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who falls into prostitution, thinking at first she finally has found the family structure she's always longed for but eventually realizing she's trapped in a tragic cycle of prostitution and violence. The main character, Dime, is an intelligent and capable girl with a deep love of reading. Life in her foster home becomes a struggle, due to her foster mom's drinking, Dime's increased responsibility for child care, and unwanted advances from an older foster brother. These challenges lead to school becoming a struggle. When Dime's foster mother kicks her out during a cold New Jersey winter, a woman named L.A. befriends Dime, giving her food, loaning her a coat, and offering her a place to stay. Dime ends up at the apartment of a pimp named Daddy and falls for him immediately. Daddy is charming, handsome, and kind to Dime. She feels loved and seen, which she admits is all she's ever wanted. For weeks, he lets her stay, buys her clothes, and takes care of her, with no expectations other than helping around the house. He eventually manipulates Dime into turning tricks, and she becomes a "ho" in his "stable." Dime descends further into the violent world of teen and child prostitution and witnesses the terrifying reality of sex trafficking. Her only solace during her darkest times are reading and recalling her favorite stories. Throughout the book, Dime tries to figure out how to write a note that will be left at the end of her journey. As the details of her new life in prostitution emerge, the reader comes to understand why she's writing the note and the event that acts as the catalyst for her actions.
Is it any good?
Dime is a heartbreaking and realistic portrayal of how easily kids with no support and no advocates can fall through the cracks of society. In 13-year-old Dime's case, she descends into a seemingly inescapable cycle of prostitution and violence. Dime is a tough read, to be sure. Author E.R. Frank doesn't sugarcoat the sad and hopeless lives of teenage prostitutes, but she manages to balance the grimness by creating deep, interesting, and compelling characters. Throughout most of the book, Dime tries to figure out a way to write a note that will explain her situation. In an homage to The Book Thief, she decides to write from the point of view of a motivator that people understand, trying at various times to write in the voice of Sex, Money, and Truth. This is a great device that gets readers to question how they view prostitution and what the real cost is -- to the people involved and the world at large. Dime drives home the absolute hopelessness of life for teen prostitutes, with no money of their own (the pimp keeps it), no ability to walk out the door unsupervised, no access to a phone, and rare contact with the outside world. Even the police aren't to be trusted, as is evidenced by one character's abuse at the hands of a cop. This is a strong answer to the questions many people ask about prostitutes, such as, "Why don't they just walk away?" or "Why don't they ask for help?"
The plot is straightforward, and the pace picks up at the end, when Dime faces a situation that makes her rethink her resignation to her new life. Because the book is so realistic, the violence, sex, and grim life of the prostitutes can be hard to take. The story gets almost unbearably sad as Dime's situation worsens and sex trafficking and child prostitution come into play. Author Frank even implores the reader to keep reading at the end of a few chapters. (For example, "I'm sorry to upset you with all of this, Truth would say. But please. Please keep reading.") A "Sources" section at the end has many resources for further reading and contact information for groups working on the issues of teen prostitution and sex trafficking. Even though Dime can be hard to take at times, it's a story that needs to be told and read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about where to look for help in tough times. Do you know which resources exist to help teens in all types of trouble? Do you think you could gather the courage to talk to a school teacher or administrator about personal problems, big or small?
Do you find yourself turning to certain books, movies, or music when you're dealing with bad situations? What about them helps you out?
Have you ever felt invisible? Or do you think there are kids around you who could use a helping hand, although you might never have thought about it before?
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