- Panic by Sharon M. Draper
Diamond and her friends love dancing at Crystal Pointe Dance Academy. They all still dream of fame in the larger world, however, so when Diamond meets a man who claims to have a daughter her age and connections to some big stars that he's casting for a movie, she abandons common sense and goes with him to an "audition," which turns out to be an internet porn operation. He keeps Diamond locked up and drugged for six days while her family and friends fear for her. Her drugged state allows for the multiple rapes she endures to be only hinted at and affords her a mechanism of oblivion when she eventually escapes that makes the aftermath less traumatizing. Meanwhile Layla, another girl at the studio, is struggling with her own abusive situation as her boyfriend, Donovan, gets more and more aggressive, and her public humiliation enables her to be sympathetic to Diamond's exposure. Draper employs her signature format here of focalizing through an ensemble cast of African-American teens coping with the multiple facets of their own lives while being involved in a single larger issue. Each character is given a distinct set of family circumstances and personality traits to ensure multiple access points for reader identification, and their choices, while not always wise or comfortable, certainly have credibility. What's particularly interesting here is where she takes the aftermath of her protagonists' traumas: there's no blaming or moralizing, just a sympathetic acknowledgment of the need to move forward from bad circumstances, a supportive point that will ring truer to readers than more didactic approaches. The emotional ranges of the characters are likewise readily recognizable for teens: Draper doesn't go too deep or rely on metaphor or complex psychology to establish motivation, and this straightforward treatment, along with the pacing and subject matter, will make this attractive even for older teens who enjoy drama but don't necessarily see themselves as enthusiastic readers.