A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers learn about the terrifying lives of girls forced into sex work as well as about the things that make up everyday life (the food, smells, sounds, and customs) in rural Nepal and big-city India. To research her novel, McCormick visited impoverished and isolated villages in the Himalayan foothills and interviewed women working in Calcutta's red-light district and girls who had been rescued from the brothels.
Hope and courage are a powerful combination. Never give up hope. Summon the courage you need to escape a bad situation.
Positive Role Models
Despite living in the horror of Happiness House, several of the girls and women offer Lakshmi friendship and kindness. The son of one of the sex workers teaches her to read and speak a bit of English and Hindi.
Violence & Scariness
Lakshmi is described as "torn and bleeding" after being raped for the first time. Lakshmi and the other girls and women at Happiness House are raped multiple times each day and beaten by the woman in charge. A girl commits suicide. The girls live in constant fear. While the sex is violent, it's described with little explicit detail. Author Patricia McCormick's focus on the emotional effect sex work has on the girls and women shows how they are being not only physically but also mentally abused. Women have sex in the same room as their sleeping children.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
All sex in the novel is in the context of abuse and sex work, covered under our Violence section.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lakshmi is drugged so she can be sold multiple times as a virgin to customers of Happiness House. One of the women has become an alcoholic. Young children are given "special medicine" so they can sleep while their mothers have customers.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Patricia McCormick's award-winning novel in verse, Sold, is the story of Lakshmi, a 13-year-old girl from a poor village in rural Nepal, who is sold into sex work by her stepfather. Lakshmi, thinking she is going to a job as a housemaid, is innocent of what lies ahead until she arrives at Happiness House, a brothel in India. Held captive until she can pay off the ever-increasing debt owed by her family, she risks everything for a chance to escape. The storyline is intense and disturbing but never sensationalized. Sold (originally published in 2006) was a National Book Award finalist, a Quill Award winner, and an American Library Association Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. It was adapted for a film starring Gillian Anderson and David Arquette, released in the United States in 2016.
Is It Any Good?
Chilling and heartbreaking, this award-winning novel's spare first-person account of a teen Nepali girl sold into sex work is unforgettable. As it's written in free-verse vignettes (some only a few paragraphs) rather than chapters, readers are able to take an emotional breath between scenes they find disturbing. The book's many awards are well earned and an accurate reflection of this remarkable work.
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