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Patricia McCormick

Publishing Information: Hyperion: New York, 2006
ISBN: 0786851716
: 272 p.
Ages: 14 & Up

Set in India, this free verse novel tells the story of 13-year-old Lakshmi, who is sold into prostitution and struggles to survive and escape the brutality she endures.

Book Talk:
Lakshmi's family is desperately poor, but village life in the mountains of Nepal has its share of pleasures. When the monsoons wreck their crops yet again, Lakshmi's stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. She arrives at 'Happiness House' full of hope, but soon learns the unthinkable truth - she has been sold into prostitution.

This new world becomes a nightmare from which there is no escape. But, very gradually, Lakshmi makes friends with others in the house, and gathers her courage, until the day she has to face the hardest decision of all: will she risk everything to reclaim her life?

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Sexual Slavery
Teenage Prostitutes

Awards & Reviews:
ALA Best Book of the Year, 2007
Booklist Editors Choice Books for Youth - Older Reader's Category, 2006
Children's Literature Council's Choice, 2007
National Book Award Finalist, 2007
New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age, 2007
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults 2007
YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2007

Booklist, September 15, 2006, p54
Kirkus Reviews, Sepetember 1, 2006
School Library Journal, September 2006, p211

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What is Lakshmi's life like in her Nepal mountain village? What events create the need for her to go into the city?
  2. Discuss the chapter titled "Everything I Need to Know." What do you think of the mandates that Lakshmi will be forced to live under in her village. Compare it to the chapter of the same title that appears later in the city. How does it represent all the changes in her life?
  3. Did you suspect bad intentions with the "auntie" and "uncle" who escorted Lakshmi? Why do you think Lakshmi herself did not hold any? What does this show you about her character?
  4. What things does she wonder about on her journey? What ordinary objects fascinate her? How does this innocence help seal her fate?
  5. How does Mumtaz gain control over Lakshmi? What tactics does she use to own her both physically and emotionally? What punishment does she exact on girls who disobey or betray her?
  6. Describe the other girls and women in the brothel. How do they accept or rail against their lives there? What does Lakshmi learn from them? In the end, what happens to them?
  7. For the festival of brothers and sisters, Harish gives Lakshmi a new pencil. This small act of kindness undoes her. Why do you think this "undoes" her? How do others reach out to help each other at the brothel?
  8. What does despair look like? How does Lakshmi prevent her own despair from destroying her hope? Is it destroyed in others? How?
  9. What happens when Monica leaves the brothel to return to the family she has supported? Do you think Lakshmi's own Ama would do the same upon her return? What about her stepfather? What makes you think so or not?
  10. What was the most disturbing part of this story for you? What facts crawled under your skin and haunt you? Do you think there is anything you can do to help? What?

Related Websites:
Author's Website (A curriculum guide with project ideas is available at this site) -

Amnesty International -

Apne Aap -

End Child Prostitution and Trafficking -

International Justice Mission -

Maiti Nepal -

Vital Voices -  

Asphalt Angels by Ineke Hotwijk; translated by Wanda Boeke, 1999
Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor, 2006
Broken Moon by Kim Antieau, 2007
Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde, 2006
Can't Get There From Here by Todd Strasser, 2004 (A 2006 RITBA Nominee)
Charmed by Carrie Mac, 2004
The Facts Speak for Themselves by Brock Cole, 2000
Letters To My Mother by Teresa Cardenas; translated by David Unger, 2006
Melitte by Fatima Shaik, 1997
Ribbons of the Sunby Harrie Hamilton, 2006
Shayla's Double Brown Baby Blues by Lori Aurelia Williams, 2001
by Annie Callan, 2001
33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp, 2003
Tomorrow, Maybe by James Brian, 2003
Tyrell by Coe Booth, 2006

Other Books by the Author:
Cut, 2000
My Brother's Keeper, 2005

About the Author:
Patricia McCormick is a journalist and writer. She graduated from Rosemont College in 1978, followed by an M.S. from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1986 and an M.F.A. from New School University in 1999.  Her first novel for teens was Cut, about a young woman who self-injures herself. This was followed by My Brother's Keeper in 2005, about a boy struggling with his brother's addiction and Sold in 2006.  Her awards include the American Library Association Best Book of the Year, inclusion on the New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age list and the Children’s Literature Council’s Choice. 

She has written for The New York Times, Parents Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Ladies Home Journal, Town & Country, More, Reader’s Digest, Mademoiselle and other publications and has been an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and an instructor of creative writing at the New School University.  She lives in New York with two children, a husband and two cats.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair