Sometimes it amazes me that “Young Adult” includes books like Sold and 10 Things To Do Before You’re 16 (Caroline Plaisted).
One is entirely fluff. And up to now I thought I had read books that were teen-chick-lit fluffy, but now I realize that they actually had things like a plot, a storyline, character development, a point. 10 Things is just how two fifteen-year-old girls set out to change their lives one leg waxing at a time. It’s certainly not a harmful book. It is what it is. Pure, unadulterated fluff.
Now contrast that with one of the most harsh, most intense YA books that I have ever read: Sold, by Patricia McCormick.
This is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who is sold by her father in Nepal to a brothel. The woman making the transaction walks her to a city, and then gives her to someone else to get to the city. Along the way there are several negotiations for her that Lakshmi doesn’t understand. she thinks she is going to the city to be a maid, and doesn’t know why she is going so very far. The travel and build-up goes to about halfway through the book, giving us a chance to get to know this girl before it all comes crashing down.
Lakshmi is imprisoned in the brothel, first by being beaten and drugged until she has to submit. Then she is held fast by the huge debt over her head that she will never be allowed to repay and the threat of violence. She watches the scenes of the other prostitutes play out before her and loses hope.
There are the tiniest bright spots. A friend who is kind to her. A son of a prostitute who teaches her some English. A tea salesman who gives her some tea. And eventually, an American who can offer her safety.
Sold is a grueling book. The verse format works well in capturing the cruelty and devastation that is a reality for many girls. I hesitate to even say this is a YA book rather than an adult book. Yes, the character is thirteen, but this isn’t a thirteen we know. It’s an amazing book that will blow you away.
Let me suggest, based on experience, that you not read it directly after any teen book that is either pink or features shoes on the cover. It’s just not a good idea.