The Pageturner: “Before We Were Yours” Offers a New Perspective on Human Trafficking That Tends to be Forgotten About

Lisa Wingate tells the harrowing story of a family torn apart but reunited by a young woman with a strong-willed heart.


Kortney Huggins

“Before We Were Yours” sheds a light on the less talked-about human trafficking issue. The taking of children from their homes was in the inspiration of this historical fiction novel by Lisa Wingate.

Kortney Huggins, J1 Mentor and Student Life Editor

The first time I saw this book, I had just started eleventh grade and was still new to Lori Vincent’s AP Lang. class. I saw the book on the shelves a few times and never read it- until now. 

A little over one year after initially seeing the book, I decided to read it as I was going through a reading drought during which I could not find any books that seemed to interest me. Honestly, I just picked the book up so I’d have something to read. 

There was nothing about the book that particularly stood out to me. It was written from two points of views, which I always love, but the thing that was most prominent to me was the story itself.  

… we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment.”

— Lisa WIngate

“Before We Were Yours” starts out in the beginning of Rills life. Rill is the oldest of five children who belong to river gypsies and becomes the one of the main focuses throughout the story. From Rills point of view, readers learn that her and her siblings are stolen from their family off their shantyboat and put into a house that is posed as an orphanage. 

The orphanage director preys on vulnerable and uneducated people in order to gather enough children to run her dubious operation. She’s bought out the police of the town as well as judges to make sure that her ‘adoptions’ look legal. But in reality, she’s selling the children she steals for large sums of money after abusing and brainwashing them at the orphanage house.

The second point of view is from Avery Stafford, an attorney whose family is very well-known in the public eye due to the fact that her dad is the senator. Avery begins to unearth the story of the hostile orphanage from the past and uses the help of a local man to find out more about it. Later in the story, the two find out that their grandparents knew each other and that makes them work harder to uncover the buried secrets of each family.

Wingate uses the two points of views to shift from the past to the present tense. It was a little trying at first to figure out how the two stories were related, but once it clicked, it made sense and made the story that much more interesting. 

The story was very compelling until the last few chapters. I feel like the ending was rushed and there were a lot of unanswered questions as well as a few too many cliches for my liking. 

Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone who likes a little mystery while reading and always wants a happy ending.