Author: Patricia McCormick
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Economic concepts: child schooling and work, poverty, scarcity, economic role of government, child trafficking
Lakshmi had learned early on that life as a young girl in a remote Nepalese village involved not only a great deal of hard physical labor, but also constant worries about the family’s livelihood. While she was fortunate enough to attend school, fate had dealt a cruel blow when her father died and her mother remarried a man who turned out to spend most of his time gambling and drinking away what little money they had. He stooped even lower when he sold Lakshmi into prostitution.
Believing at first that her step-father had arranged for her to work as a maid for a rich woman far away, Lakshmi cooperated with the traffickers who brought her from her mountain home to one of India’s large cities. Her naïve wonder at city life quickly turned into horror when she was imprisoned in a brothel, abused, deprived of food and water, drugged, and forced to sleep with countless male customers. Trapped by fear and manipulation, Lakshmi had to learn who she could trust before this nightmare could even begin to end.
Based on interviews with aid workers and trafficking survivors, this award-winning novel paints a grim picture of life as an unvalued girl in rural Nepal, and an even more disturbing portrait of a child’s terrifying journey into forced prostitution. Although the author is careful to avoid graphic language, the book is most appropriate for young adults with sufficient maturity to read about rape and abuse. Along the way come some potent lessons about the insidiousness of human trafficking and the need for multiple strategies to end it.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Children and Economics