Muriel Avenue Sluts
By Maggie Hasbrouck
Publisher: No Bones Studio Press
Kindle ASIN: B01MZ4Q5IA
Genre: Fiction/Coming of Age
Seventeen-year-old Julia Turnbow’s mother gets paid to have sex; that’s just how it is. When Jules turns eighteen she‘ll follow in her mother’s footsteps and begin training to join the exclusive world of Philadelphia’s infamous Muriel Avenue Sluts. Anyway, that’s the plan.
But when Jules’s best friend Anna reveals that she’s being abused by one of Muriel Avenue’s gentleman clients, Jules’s world is knocked off its bearings. After a routine haircut and shave, Anna’s abuser falls to his death from a second-story balcony—and Jules is just one of two people who knows exactly what happened.
To complicate matters, Jules dives head first into a friendship with the daughter of the dead man. Greta’s a train wreck: she’s charming, unpredictable, and has one too many questions about Muriel Avenue. Then, Jules puts all of Muriel Avenue at risk with an ill-timed slip of the tongue and she finds herself wanted by the FBI. Running from everything she’s ever cared about, all Jules wants is to get back to the people she loves.
Complete with duct tape, wasp spray, and a healthy dose of sexual tension, Muriel Avenue Sluts is a coming of age story with a dark edge and plenty of heart.
Muriel Avenue Sluts is certainly not a typical read for myself, but it is also not one to overlook. My review on this particular book is a bit late I am sad to say. I picked this up while on hiatus and devoured it within a few nights. Honestly, I am not sure why I am just now sharing my thoughts. Too far behind I suppose. But better late than never.
Muriel Avenue is not like other streets. It is famous for housing Philadelphia’s “Muriel Avenue Sluts”. A community of women who offer a variety of services that range from haircuts to sexual favors. For them it is a way of life. 18-year-old Jules is no exception, as she will follow in suit and train for the same occupation as her mother and the other avenue inhabitants. But when Jules’ best friend and neighbor Anna reveals a horrible secret, life takes a turn for the unexpected. Plans change and become very complicated, driving Jules far from the only life she thought she would ever know.
I want to start of by acknowledging that Muriel Avenue Sluts is a story that explores some very heavy and important issues. It is quite possible that some will encounter triggers and it will not be suitable for all. It is an emotional read that is much deeper than its title or cover could ever possible convey. Do not pick this up expecting a light read and please avoid if you struggle with the topic of sexual abuse or rape.
With that said, I will admit that equally driven by character and plot, events unfold at a reasonable pace creating a fast read. A dynamic set of characters placed within a very unique environment offers the reader a diverse experience that is as thought-provoking as it is original. Jules grows tremendously during the span of the story and we receive a firsthand look at the consequences of very difficult actions. Yet it is significantly hard to fault her or Anna for the choices they have made, right or wrong. While their lives are beyond anything I could imagine or compare to my own, I found myself empathizing and relating to them in multiple ways with incredible ease.
The plot is brazen and dark, as it tackles difficult topics of sexual abuse, the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable. It also takes a direct look at an environment where sex is viewed as a commodity. This alone can feel very unsettling. While the main protagonist is a teenager, I find it difficult to classify this as YA. It does not read as such and really explores some strong subjects in a very direct on and raw manner. I admire the author’s ability to delve so deeply and honestly into such complex and sensitive issues. I feel this would not have succeeded otherwise. Without her straightforwardness, the message would not have packed the necessary punch. It was important to make the reader troubled and uneasy with what was happening, and she accomplished this well.
This is a challenging read not without a few minor issues. There were some elements I found myself questioning and it was never possible to fully accept or understand the life these women had chosen. But Hasbrouck did manage to solicit many moments of empathy and understanding, so in that I think it was a success. While I was not able to fully relate to the characters’ lives, I found myself relating to small portions within them and walking away with a powerful message. This would be an excellent selection for a discussion group.
Served with a tall glass of iced tea and fresh lemon.