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A Reading Group Guide to Traffick
By Ellen Hopkins About the Book
Five teens victimized by sex trafficking try to find their way to a new life in this riveting companion to the New York Times
from Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank
In her bestselling novel, Tricks
, Ellen Hopkins introduced us to five memorable characters tackling these enormous questions: Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas and is helped into a child prostitution rescue; Seth, the gay farm boy, disowned by his father, who finds himself without money or resources other than his own body; Whitney, the privileged kid coaxed into the life by a pimp and whose dreams are ruined in a heroin haze; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling habit forces him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead.
And now, in Traffick
, these five are faced with the toughest question of all: Is there a way out?
How these five teenagers face the aftermath of their decisions and experiences is the soul of this story that exposes the dark, ferocious underbelly of the child trafficking trade. Heartwrenching and hopeful, Traffick
takes us on five separate but intertwined journeys through the painful challenges of recovery, rehabilitation, and renewal to forgiveness and love. All the way home. Discussion Questions
1. Each time the story switches from one character’s perspective to another’s, a new idea or theme is introduced in a poem. Some of the poems share themes such as love, addiction, or loss. Identify a theme from one poem and find evidence of this theme in the chapter or chapters that follow. Discuss how the author builds this theme throughout the novel.
2. At first, Veronica (Ronnie) is unsure if she will be able to forgive Cody for betraying her trust and for gambling recklessly. What happens to Cody to make her forgive him? How does Cody respond to her forgiveness? What else does Ronnie do to show her love for and commitment to Cody? Discuss how their relationship changes as the story evolves.
3. Eden and her sister, Eve, have names of religious significance. Given their mother’s extreme religious beliefs and harsh discipline, why are her daughters’ names especially meaningful? What does Eve name’s symbolize in Christian theology? How is this symbolism significant in the story?
4. As Iris is dying of cancer, Ginger learns that her mother was sexually assaulted as a child. Until this point, Ginger thought of her mother as an irresponsible and negligent parent and felt little compassion toward her. How does this information force Ginger to reconsider her feelings toward her mother? How might her mother’s illness affect Ginger’s judgment? Does Ginger become closer to her mother?
5. Before leaving House of Hope, Ginger challenges Pastor Martin on his choice to tell the girls to “go and sin no more,” and compels him to be more compassionate toward them. Why does she argue that the girls’ pasts should not be considered sinful? Using evidence from the text, summarize her argument. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
6. Whitney sees Paige at the mall one day, notices changes in Paige’s appearance, and is surprised to see Paige and Skylar together. How has Whitney and Paige’s relationship changed in the time Whitney was out of school? Why does Whitney omit details of her time in Vegas when she talks to her friends from school? What contributes to the change in their relationship?
7. Since leaving rural Indiana for Las Vegas, Seth does his best to fit in with more “cultured” company by talking and acting more like his new friends. How does his manner of speaking change when he calls home, or when he is on the way to visit over Christmas? At the end of the novel, do you think Seth finds a balance between his new life and his Indiana heritage?
8. Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger, and Cody each became involved in sex trafficking for different reasons, but they are all in the process of leaving “the life” and reclaiming their normal lives at home. Choose two of the main characters and compare how their families help or hinder their recovery. Consider whether their parent(s) or sibling(s) played a role in their becoming a part of the life.
9. Cody is extremely discouraged about his paralysis, but he finds an unlikely cheerleader in Ronnie’s brother, Vince. Why is Vince particularly invested in helping him? What does he disclose to Cody when he comes to visit in the hospital? In return for his help, what does Vince expect from Cody?
10. How does Seth react when David dismisses him, essentially putting an end to their relationship, and why does Seth say “Thank you” to David? What lesson(s) did Seth learn from the time he spent living and partying with David?
11. Upon discovering that Shayleece has been murdered, Ginger’s roommate, Miranda, becomes anxious and afraid. Why is Miranda more affected by Shayleece’s murder than other girls at House of Hope? Use evidence from the text to explain what Miranda and Shayleece have in common. How are they different?
12. Cody repeatedly refers to Ronnie as his angel because of everything she is doing for him and because she believes in his ability to recover and live a normal life. Do any of the other four characters have an “angel” in their lives, someone they rely on for support? Explain your answer in detail.
13. Eden's counselor, Sarah, reveals that she was once in the life herself, but as an escort for wealthy clients. What made her to decide to quit? Why did she choose to pursue a career in social work? How might her experiences help her relate to the girls?
14. Like many of the girls at House of Hope, Ginger was forced into the life because she was raped at a young age. Pastor Martin often refers to the girls collectively, perhaps to promote a sense of community; discuss how this makes Ginger feel.
15. Through his work with Have Ur Cake, Seth has learned how to pay attention to certain details when he first meets a client. What context clues does he use to try to understand Peter? How does Seth try to categorize his clients and predict what they will want from him?
16. While he is still living with David, Seth begins volunteering at a center for LGBTQ youth, an experience that makes him feel somewhat normal. How is he able to relate to the teens who spend time at the center? Make a prediction about what would happen if they discovered his work with Have Ur Cake.
17. Whitney has sex with Dana in exchange for oxycodone pills. Why does Dana say that she expects Whitney to return the following night? What does Dana mean when she says “How much do you think you’re worth?” How do you think Whitney’s confidence and feeling of self-worth are affected because of her time working in Vegas? Extension Activities
1. Sex trafficking is prevalent in the US. Find a local organization that supports youth affected by sex trafficking, and volunteer for a day. In a large group, discuss what you learned from your work. In what ways can you continue to support teens who have been victimized in this way?
2. In what ways have/will the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges
Federal Supreme Court ruling impact LGBTQ rights across the country? Do you think the results of this ruling will shift people’s perspectives on LGBTQ rights? Research state and local laws to see what kind of protections (and biases) exist for LGBTQ people. Share your findings with your reading group.
3. Similar to the creative writing assignment Ms. Cox gives to House of Hope girls, write about a frightening childhood memory and include sensory details of the experience.
4. Research how child trafficking operates on a global scale. Find a recent news article relating to the child trafficking trade. How are children forced into it? Are children in certain countries or regions more likely to be trafficked than others? Present your findings in a multimedia format (e.g.,
PowerPoint or Prezi). Guide written by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.