Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid

This is a picture of Evelyn Lau as an adult. She is currently making her living as a writer so this story has a happy ending.

Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid was Evelyn Lau's first book, based on diaries written after she ran away from home. It is fascinating but also very depressing. Her suffering and rebellion, her descent into drugs and prostitution, her dark unhappiness seemed so unecessary. If only she and her parents could have been more reasonable.

There are many sides to every story and a book like this cannot be objective. It reads like a cry for help, like Lau's suicide attempts and masochistic behaviour. Lau's diaries are fascinating, but in a way which makes you ache for what this girl suffered at home and on the street.

Lau ran away at fourteen because her parents were too controlling and distant. She describes how her mother yelled at her constantly and expected her to get straight A's. Her father, who was sweet to her as a toddler, became withdrawn once she was older. Her mother expected Lau to study constantly, whether she needed to or not and forbade her to write. This lead to bulimia at first and then, at the age of fourteen, flight.

My only hope is that Lau's diary does not inspire other teens to emulate her. Lau had a rare gift that other teens will not be able to count on. A prodigy, she was published and a literary award-winner before she ran away.

My recommendation? Read it, if you don't mind something harsh, full of unhappy sex and unsatisfactory relationships. If taken as a cautionary tale it is edifying. You can glimpse Lau's talent shining through her pain.