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Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Sold Book Poster Image
Unforgettable story of Nepali girl sold into prostitution.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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 prostitution 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 prostitutes 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 prostitution 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 prostitution, 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 prostitution 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 byJoy S. April 4, 2017

Important Subject, but Not for "under 18s"

While the story provides an unflinching look at the crime of sex trafficking in Nepal and India - a practice that should be condemned and eradicated- the graphi... Continue reading
Parent Written byHeidi K. March 21, 2017

Rated well below an appropriate age level

The descriptions of sex are inappropriate for young teens. I don't understand how common sense media recommended this for 14 and over. A powerful story i... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byDetroitprodigy February 17, 2017

A Wonderful Story

"Sold" by Patricia McCormick is a must read for anyone. It's a very eye-opening story to the world of human trafficking, yet does not go into ex... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAlejandro0000000000d November 2, 2016


The sex and prostitution is a big part of the book. So... It's not good for anyone under 14. Other than that, it's a good and meaningful read and a t... Continue reading

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 prostitution 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

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