105 Ways to Give a Book

Sold In The Range Of YA

Sometimes it amazes me that “Young Adult” includes books like Sold and 10 Things To Do Before You’re 16 (Caroline Plaisted).

10 Things  To Do Before You're 16One 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.

SoldNow 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.

9 comments:

zeelibrarian said...

Wow! Thanks for the review of Sold. I had a mom come in today and ask about books that take place in another country. This was one of my recommendations. The girl was in 9th grade. The grandma seemed worried about this book and Chanda's Secret. Yet she thought nothing of a book about feet binding. I wasn't sure why she made a difference. All three are about violations to women. What ages would you recommend this book for?

MotherReader said...

I tend to be very conservative, but I guess 9th grade would be okay. Let me say though, this book pulls no punches. I've read some foot-binding books in my time, but the graphic description and hopelessness of the situation takes this book to a different level. Particularly considering that it is still going on at this time, which makes it even more powerful.

DaviMack said...

Yeah, we had this one for Cybils, and though I loved it, I read it right after Michele Jaffe's Bad Kitty. Yeesh.

lifelongreader said...

I recently read Street Kid which I review on my site, and that was passed to me by a student. It is also a true story of abuse and is horrendous, but compelling - to see the horrors that people can inflict on young children.

It is harrowing and not really YA, I think, but it is best not to hide these things which truly exist. However I would never stop a teen from reading - should we not allow To Kill a Mockingbird?

Books like these should be on the shelves and children/teens can choose for themselves.

Kaz said...

Sounds like "Memoirs of a Geisha", though of course that's not YA.

Liz B said...

I just finished Sold, and I'm mentally sorting out my review. Yes, it's a great book; but who is the best audience for it? I'd want to know the middle school kid before recommending it, because while sparse it doesn't hide from the reality of Lakshmi's life as a child prostitute.

And while I HATE "issue" books (or turning a book into an issue book), I cannot help but also think that Sold should be read by those people who could actually DO something about the child sex trade (adults via voting & supporting aid agencies etc.).

Kristin said...

Sold sounds heartbreaking... it is the type of thing I would want my daughter to read, yet, shelter her from at the same time...

Robin Brande said...

Just so you know, MR, even after reading all the many reviews of Sold that have been out there for the last year, it finally took yours to get me to the bookstore today to buy it.

Thank you.

Chris said...

That sounds like an intense book but I probably would have read it at that age (9th grade). I was probably reading Stephen King then. At least, this has a message.