Sold.jpgSold by Patricia McCormick. Published in 2006.

Lakshmi is a 13 year old girl. She lives in a small hut in Nepal with her mother, step-father and infant brother. Though the family lives in extreme poverty, Lakshmi's step-father manages to spend most of his time "[gambling] away the landlord's money playing cards in the tea shop" (1). A drought and then a monsoon soon leave the family desperate, and Lakshmi's step-father decides to send her into the city to work in a rich household as a servant, like many of the other girls from the village have done. Lakshmi accepts this as her duty, and is excited to be able to provide for her family so that they will have "enough [money] for a tin roof," a luxury that Lakshmi dreams about frequently (49). Little does Lakshmi or her mother know that her step-father has planned to sell her into the illegal child prostitution trade in India.

Lakshmi is sent to the "Happiness House," a brothel that houses several under-aged female prostitutes. She is told that in order to leave, she must work off her 20,000 rupees debt to Mumtaz, the house mother, though she knows it is twice what Mumatz paid for her. She begins to keep track of the money owed and the money paid by the men, and while the other girls scoff at her calculations, she continues to "pore over the book that shows all [her] carefully penciled entries: the money [she's] earned and the money [she's] paid Mumtaz, for makeup, for nail paint, for the rotten rice that is [the girls'] daily dinner, for [her] bed, for the visits from the dirty-hands doctor" (223). But upon showing Mumtaz the math that she believes will lead to her freedom in one short year, she is laughed at as Mumtaz names a half dozen other charges to pile on to her calculations. Shortly after, Shilpa, another girl that serves as Mumtaz's spy in the brothel, laughs at Lakshmi and informs her that "[her] family will never see one rupee more. ...[she] will never pay off what [she owes]" (238). From that point on, Lakshmi decides that she will do whatever is necessary to escape from this terrible place.

The book is written in the form of short, one to two page vignettes. While this allows a story that progresses quickly, it does prompt some tangents that feel a bit unneeded some of the most memorable details are omitted to keep the sections short. All of this leads to a story that is disjointed and can be difficult to truly get into. However, for readers that enjoy a quick-pace novel with smaller sections, Sold is an ideal read. The nonlinear storyline can make it easy to forget details and events that normally flesh out a story. All of this culminates into a slightly frustrating combination, as such a serious subject is expected to be written in a more "standard" form. However, the unique style adds a dimension to the novel that otherwise would not have been there.

While this book is definitely not for younger or immature readers (as there are descriptions of sex in the latter half of the book), it is an informative glimpse into a world-wide problem that often goes unnoticed.

Additional Resources

Author's Website (it also offers a pretty extensive lesson plan guide for Sold under "For Teachers" in the drop-down menu)
National Book Foundation Author Profile
More on child exploitation problems in India
Documentary - Still Dreams
Nepal's Webpage - including information on travel opportunities and local culture.