They Called Me Red
Young Adult Fiction (Grades 9-12)
Devon has a fairly typical life his mom isn't on the scene, but his father does a great job being Dad AND Mom. He wasn't prepared for Lily to come along and enchant his dad with her giggles and shy glances. She soon moves in and takes over. Devon's father suddenly falls ill, and when western doctors can't find the problem, Lily insists all three of them travel to her native Vietnam, where her uncle can treat him. Once in her family's tiny apartment, Lily forces Devon away from his father, and makes him drink some musky tea that is supposed to calm him. It is only when Devon wakes up in a locked room that he begins to realize his suspicions about Lily weren't nearly as horrific as who she really is, and what she has done.
Within days, Devon finds himself in a different location, still locked up, with three other young boys. Through hushed conversations in broken English and Vietnamese, Devon learns that he is now the property of a restaurant-owner named Long, and that he has been transported to Cambodia. As the nightmare worsens, the reality that this restaurant doubles as a brothel sets in. Because of his fiery red hair and freckles, Long is able to demand a higher price for him, and her customers start a bidding war. With the memory of his father and his old life keeping him from complete despair, Devon manages to hope for escape or rescue. Back home, those close to Devon refuse to believe Lily's lies about him running away in Vietnam, and an international search effort begins. Once found, the challenges continue, as Devon faces a new life without his father, and a new identity molded by unspeakable memories.
Praise for They Called Me Red
"... a story of child exploitation and human trafficking that, although fictional, could easily have been plucked from today's headlines. Told with compassion and delicacy, the novel centres on a boy who is changed forever after he's sold into the global sex trade ... Although the subject matter carries the potential for graphic descriptions of Devon's situation, Kilbourne artfully depicts the horrors of forced child prostitution without resorting to disturbing specifics. The plot moves at a heart-pounding pace sure to appeal to young adult readers, and yet Kilbourne manages to imbue her characters with both depth and humanity ... A potential challenge for any YA author is to both delight and instruct a generation that is less likely to crack open a book than to plug into an iPod ... Kilbourne recognizes the need to meet YA readers on their own turf. Quill & Quire, Oct. 2008
"This is a powerful story, realistic and dramatic, with just enough tension to keep the pages turning....This novel is highly recommended." Resource Links, Fall 2008
"Kilbourne stands apart from others ... she enlightens her readers on facts of life that, while they could be ignored, are important to deal with in terms of our global community ... Teens, parents, and teachers should all make They Called Me Red a priority on their reading list!" Ann Ketcheson, CM: Canadian Review of Materials, July 2008
"... great emotional depth, which provides a human face to the global crisis of human trafficking." Martin Avery, author and educator
"They Called Me Red is an intelligent and sensitive glimpse into the disturbing world of child sexual exploitation. Christina Kilbourne has crafted an engaging read that will open the eyes of young readers to a world too little discussed." Judith Andersen, Head of Library, J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate
"Kilbourne gets the dread across ... [and] the storyline is handled tactfully; fear and circumstances of imprisonment are the main focuses." ForeWord, Nov. 2008