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To sum up: Lyrically written as a series of short vignettes voiced by Lakshmi, a thirteen year old girl living in a hut on a Himalayan hillside, who is sold into slavery by her stepfather. She endures many torments in a brothel, including of course daily rapings by her madame's customers, as well as plenty of brutal treatment by her captors and fellow slaves. Eventually, through acts of kindness by a young, also rural-born tea vendor, friends among her fellow prostitutes, and two American advocates, she is rescued from her awful plight.
Who would benefit from reading this novel? Teens and adults who are ready for the content (occasional - and thematically, psychologically necessary - descriptions of Lakshmi's rapes are tastefully done but strategically explicit at times) and are comfortable with a quietly lyrical voice and moderate pacing. Readers who have not encountered this ongoing issue before and are looking for a first-person perspective based on Patricia McCormick's (author of the widely popular Cut and other YA issue novels) research will find it an engaging and thought-provoking introduction to this serious problem.
Action: I'm going to request a lit. circle/reading group set for next year's world lit. class, because I've seen quite a few students with this book already, and feel it would be a worthwhile and relatively easy read for students who can handle the content. This novel was a National Book Award finalist for 2007, so that too will help me justify it as a selection.
And I will, of course, research the organizations that are working to stop sexual trafficking (and all human trafficking, for that matter), so that I can help students find ways to make a positive difference on this issue.
p.s. The girl on the cover, though lovely, looks about 7 years old. Lakshmi is 13. This likely turns some teen readers off as they don't like to carry around books that look like they're meant for elementary school kids. It's too bad - even if the cover photo is actually of a 13 year old girl, images count in our society and that one isn't helping get this book into the hands of its intended readers.