Author: James A. Levine
Genre: YA, International setting
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (the only reason it doesn't get a 5 is because it is so graphic!)
Challenges: YA, POC, Women Unbound
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library
Summary (from the inside flap): This is the story of Batuk, an Indian girl who is taken to Mumbai from the coutnryside and sold in to prostitution by her father; the blue notebook is her diary, in which she recalls her early childhood, records her life on the Common Street, and makes up beautiful and fantastic tales about a silver-eyed leopard and a poor boy who fells a giant with a single gold coin.
Review: This book is intense! I read Sold just a couple weeks ago and so thought I was prepared to read another book about child prostitution. Wrong! Where Sold is beautifully written, poignant, and interesting, The Blue Notebook is intense, detailed, and devastating. It is Sold on steroids. One book is not better than another, I think both are important to read.
James A. Levine is a British-born doctor who was doing research in Mumbai. He was interviewing homeless children on a street where children work as prostitutes when he saw a young girl writing in a notebook outside her "cage". He said that the image of a young prostitute engaged in the act of writing haunted him and he began to write. His novel "addresses the the devastating global issue of child prostitution and also delivers an inspiring message about the uplifting power of words and reading."
Be warned: nothing is left to the imagination in this book; there are detailed descriptions of sex between grown men and Batuk (who begins to work as a prostitute at age 9). While Batuk has sex with 10 or more men each day, she escapes through writing in her notebook. Her poetry, stories, and diary entries allow her to show her intelligence, her thoughtfulness, and how she deals with her "profession".
This book made me sad, angry, astonished, and repulsed all at once, but I had a difficult time putting it down. I found myself asking questions as I read: how can a society allow this to happen? How can parents sell their children into such an existence? Why do men choose to pay for sex with a child? How can some people be so cruel (I will not detail the cruelty experienced by Batuk and other characters)? And, how can so many people be so involved with the process of child prostitution? If, along the way, one person had said "no", Batuk (and others) could have been saved. I realize the answer to all of these questions is: extreme poverty. Until families can feed and educate their families, child prostitution and other forms of slavery will continue.
The author is donating all proceeds from the sale of this book in the US to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Has anyone else read this book? What did you think?