TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Author McCormick does an outstanding job of conveying the hope, fear, and bravery of a young girl from Nepal who is sold into prostitution in Calcutta, India. Through a series of short free-verse (not rhymed) poems, Lakshmi narrates her life story. The reader follows the girl from her poverty-stricken yet generally happy life in the isolated mountains of Nepal to her bleak, brutal existence in an Indian brothel. Lakshmi's stepfather has wasted the family's meager money on gambling and drinking, and so sells her as a "maid" to a traveling "auntie." Both Lakshmi and her mother actually believe that she will work as some type of servant for a wealthy Indian family. Lakshmi, although homesick and afraid, is eager to become the best maid she can and send some money back to her mother. It's only when Lakshmi arrives in Calcutta that she realizes the awful truth — she has been sold as a prostitute and must now work years and years while locked away in the brothel to pay off her debt. At first, Lakshmi resists the men, behavior for which she is beaten, isolated, and even has her head shaved. Later, Lakshmi is regularly drugged so that she cannot resist the men's advances.
While the poems are often frank, brutal, and difficult to read, there is also a certain beauty in Lakshmi's refusal to surrender. The story provides tremendous insight into a world of poverty and violence that is so different from our own. Just as importantly, it shows so beautifully how one girl's strength and courage saved her life. In the end, "Sold" is an inspiring story of hope that will stay with the reader long afterward. It is highly recommended for readers in high school and beyond.