Published by Annick press
Copyright © 2014
Review by Anthony Kendrick
Rarely if ever do we think about where our cell phones come from. All we know is that they cost us hundreds of dollars and that we have to have a new one every year so that we can take amazing selfies, communicate on the newest social app, and text our friends 50 times a day rather than just talking to them like human beings. In "Blue Gold" Elizabeth Stewart tells a socially conscious story that will make you think just a little more the next time you pick up your cell phone.
“Blue Gold” is the story of three girls who live in three very different worlds. Each girl’s story is told concurrently, and what we find is that what connects them together is a simple mineral, commonly known as Blue Gold, that in one form or another causes more pain and suffering than it is truly worth.
Fiona lives in Vancouver, Canada. After a party where she has gotten a little inebriated, Fiona goes home and waits for her boyfriend to text her. When he does she takes a selfie that she quickly regrets, especially after she realizes that she has lost her cell phone.
Sylvie and her family live in a Tanzanian refugee camp after having fled from their home in the Congo where there is ongoing fighting over Columbite-Tantalite Ore. She longs to leave the camp which is almost as dangerous as her homeland, but a local warlord has a different idea for Sylvie’s future and if she doesn’t agree her family and many others may die.
Laiping moves from rural China to the city of Shenzhen in order to find work at the factories that produce cell phones and other high powered technologies. Her cousin, who already works in Shenzhen, made her lifestyle seem very youthful and glamorous, but Laiping finds out quickly that the life of a factory worker is lonely and difficult. The working conditions and treatment of employees are often unfair and she learns that she can’t trust anyone.
“Blue Gold” is a book that all teenagers should read. Because of technology we live in a very global world, however so many people still have a narrow world view, and an extreme lack of understanding, or interest, in what life is like in other countries. In addition many students are being given the reigns of a powerful technology, but not being given enough training on how to use it safely. “Blue Gold” is a work of fiction only in that the named characters don’t exist, however the situations presented are very real. I appreciate though, that the author wasn’t writing this as a statement against cell phone use and production. She recognizes that the problems that she presents in this book are much more complex than that. She has, however, effectively told a great story that should make the reader think. Among the things that teens might ask themselves is: How can I become a more responsible consumer? And How can I be a wiser user of technology?
As for the writing itself, the three main characters were very captivating. Through the majority of the book I was wondering how or if these three stories would connect. Though I would have liked a little more in this vein, I was very happy that Stewart found a way to make personal connections, almost like playing six degrees of separation, with her three protagonists. While these three stories would have been profoundly good standing alone next to each other, those connections made this novel a bit more cohesive which made the reading all the more satisfying at the end. This is a great socially conscious book that I highly recommend for students in 8th grade and up.