Book Review: Runaway Girl

Posted: March 31, 2013 in Book Reviews, Resources, Top Picks of the Year

Watching her book trailer, it’s easy to see why Carissa Phelps is a successful motivational speaker and youth advocate. She has an incredible story and a caring, charismatic determination to help others. Carissa was a sexually exploited minor, who now has a law and business degree from UCLA. Her story has been featured in many places, including in USA Today, on ABC News, and in an award-winning documentary filmCarissa, (2008) produced by Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth. For information about her visit with our girls at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, read here and see the Contra Costa Times‘ coverage. You can learn more about her at She is available for trainings Nationwide.

PHELPS, Carissa & Larkin Warren. Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Street, One Helping Hand at a Time. 296p. Viking. July 2012. Tr $26.95. ISBN 978-0-670-02372-1. LC 2011038441.  Runaway Girl e1339981202376 Runaway Girl

Adult/High School–Phelps was 12 when her mother dropped her off in the lobby of the Fresno, CA, Juvenile Hall and told the man behind the counter that she couldn’t control her daughter. Her memoir touches on complex issues, including covert threats of sexual abuse, what it means to for a child to feel safe and cared for, and a bi-racial Latina identity that was not acknowledged. Like Rachel Lloyd’s Girls Like Us(HarperCollins, 2011) and Jaycee Dugard’s A Stolen Life (S & S, 2011), Runaway Girl demonstrates a great amount of insight and maturity. Crisp writing and perfectly chosen events highlight the story of what happens to the majority of 12 year olds on the street–Phelps was picked up within 48 hours and sexually trafficked. Her book is unique in its details and her focus on both post traumatic stress and self-esteem issues. Her ability to connect with and reach out to strangers along the way–counselors, teachers, and a woman who was, for once, a selfless and caring person helping a child in need–saved her life. Each small yet steadfast act of kindness and encouragement made a difference. By the time the author turned 30, she had both a law degree and an MBA from UCLA. With not a trace of victimhood or unplaced drama, this is a terrific addition to all collections.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

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