Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Sold Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Unforgettable story of Nepali girl sold into sex work.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

Hope and courage are a powerful combination. Never give up hope. Summon the courage you need to escape a bad situation.

Positive Role Models & Representations

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.


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.


All sex in the novel is in the context of abuse and sex work, covered under our Violence section.

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMaiaraZephyr November 16, 2018

I'm an adult and I wish I read this as a kid.

I think the problem with being an adult and being a middle schooler is the age difference. We forget the maturity or the lack of maturity that a child of 12+ ca... Continue reading
Adult Written byPiper19 December 29, 2020

The real world

While this book has difficult content at times, it is a powerful tool to help educate the youth of the world about both the evil and goodness that exists. Child... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byIlikedinos5 September 13, 2019

This book should be read (by a certain age)

This book is amazing. I get why people may say it's graphic, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it. Everything in life is hard, and this bo... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bySS13 March 7, 2021

What's the story?

SOLD is the story of 13-year-old Lakshmi, who lives in a tiny village in Nepal with her mother, baby brother, and stepfather. Lakshmi's family is poor, owing in part to her stepfather's gambling habit. But she goes to school, has a beloved pet goat, and imagines what her life will be like when she marries a local boy named Krishna. It's an innocent life, so innocent she can’t imagine what awaits her as she travels with her new "Auntie" and then "Uncle Husband" to a job in Calcutta. Instead of working as a maid and sending money home to her family, she finds herself trapped in a brothel with seemingly no way of escape.

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Sold. Does the fact that the book is written in free verse and features short scenes make it easier to absorb the disturbing content?

  • If you haven't seen the film adaptation of Sold, do you think Lakshmi’s story would be as powerful on film as it was when you read the novel and used your imagination to fill in things not described? If you have seen the film, how does it compare to the novel? Which do you like better?

  • The U.S. State Department's estimate (included in the author's note) is that 500,000 children are trafficked to the sex trade each year. Why do you think countries allow this to happen? What should be done to stop it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong girls and stories that stress importance of consent

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