Meet Danielle Marin, grammar school girl turned county lines drug dealer.
Betrayed by the police after a brutal assault, Danielle’s happy childhood turns sour when she finds the protection she needs in gang life.
Can Danielle find a way out before it’s too late?
This was a gritty and revealing tell all about a girl’s insidious drift into gangs. Growing up on council estate, academically able Danielle leaves her peers behind and goes to grammar school, where she never quite fits. Attracted always to the naughty kids, aged 12 Danielle meets a cool older guy who is a drug dealer. Through him she meets others and gradually becomes embroiled into a normality involving drugs and ganglife.
Old before her years, Danielle has a plethora of experiences while still a child and I had to constantly remind myself how young she was, she also reminded us but aspects of the book were truly shocking and more so when reflecting that this was a school girl. The brutal attack mentioned in the description was graphically described and difficult to read about. The response of police was equally shocking and the depressingly familiar tale of ‘slut shaming’ and implications that ‘she asked for it’ were made all the more disappointing when recollecting how lod those involved were.
Interestingly Danielle repeatedly mentioned the notion of gangs being an external concept and not the view held by those involved. This was curious and got me thinking about the criminalisation and stigmatisation of certain groups – yes this group were absolutely breaking the law, but for Danielle they were also looking out for each other, affording her some protection and earning a living.
The story was fascinating and I felt offered a strong insight into what we call, ‘gang life’ and the establishment of county lines. I was impressed with the author’s honesty and her ability later to turn her experiences into something positive. I was equally impressed by her resilience as so many aspects of her story were sad and traumatic.
I think this would be a useful read for those working with young people, if nothing else but to remind that despite appearances and behaviours, children are children. If I was to raise a criticism it would be that at times found some of the language used, the dialect a bit jarring and I think often ‘slang’ talks struggles to be translated to the written word, but this was a minor point and at times this served to give voice to the author.
Thank you to the publisher for the gifted proof copy of Top Girl. I do enjoy memoirs and am very interested in books such as this one, and I was glad that this did not disappoint. Would I recommend this one? Absolutely, it offers a remarkable insight into experiences of children on the margins, vulnerable children and anything that helps them to be better understood and thus helped is invaluable in my opinion.
About the Author
Danielle Marin grew up in London with first generation immigrant parents. She was accepted into a grammar school, however her life changed completely after a brutal attack led her to involvement with ‘gangs’ and drug crime.
She later enrolled at university and graduated with a 1st. She has since advocated within the criminal justice system for many women: ‘the hidden victims and participants of organised crime’ – and began her Masters in September 2021.