Author: Patricia McCormick
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: Septemer 15, 2006
Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family.
He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.
An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt—then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.
Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother’s words— Simply to endure is to triumph—and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision—will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?
Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.
Find Sold online
This book was so full of strength and information and it was utterly devastating. I had a really unique experience with this book: rather than actually read it, my professor in my college YA literature class read it to us. At the beginning of every class period, she would read 10-15 pages aloud to us. After, we'd all reflect on what we'd listened to by either writing or drawing about how the section made us feel. While it sounds like something that you might have done in elementary school, it made my experience with this book totally different. Because I wasn't reading it, I was completely transported into the story. Also, I wasn't able to just read it all in one sitting. I listened to this book throughout ten weeks which made it all the more engaging. On the days I didn't have the class, I found myself thinking about it and what was happening to Lakshmi.
This book was absolutely amazing - heart breaking, brave, and honest. From the moment I started it, I was touched and shocked by Lakshmi's story. A thirteen year old girl with the responsibilities she had . . . it was amazing to me. Amazing that there are places in the world today as rural as that. It was a total reality check for me.
Lakshmi was such a wonderful character to read about. Her optimism and strength were astounding. Even at her darkest times in the "Happiness House", she stayed true to her inspiring nature.
Speaking of the "Happiness House" . . . oh my God, it was so horrible. I was so angry and horrified for the things that were forced upon Lakshmi. It was terrible to see the way Lakshmi slowly changed and hardened because of her experiences there. Sex trafficking is horrible and terrifying and so rarely highlighted in the news and in media. Reading about it from a first hand account put it into perspective in a way that I've never learned about. Her story was so heart breaking. I cried in class, you guys. IN CLASS. And I didn't even care. Half of the college aged people listening right along with me were also in tears.
After reading, I did some research and found that the author traveled to Nepal and talked to other women who were put into similar situations as Lakshmi while following Lakshmi's footsteps throughout her story. Many of these women now work to educate young women in rural villages about the sex trafficking that happens so they are better able to defend themselves against it. Learning about the things that happen to women in these places was so horrifying and it made me want to help. Even just being aware and spreading the information about what happens is such an important step toward stopping sex trafficking.
There's so much I could say about this story but I think the most important thing to remember is that these topics - no matter how horrifying - need to be talked about. They can't be just brushed under the rug until they hopefully fix themselves. That will never happen. And it's important to people to know about what's happening - even teens. If no one knows about it, they won't be able to recognize it. Sold was a great way to spread information about sex trafficking through beautiful language and strong characters that stubbornly and bravely held onto hope.
“This affliction--hope--is so cruel and stubborn, I believe it will kill me”