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Blue Gold

Blue Gold

4.0 1
by Elizabeth Stewart

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Coltan, or “blue gold,” is a rare mineral used in making cell phones and computers. Across continents, the lives of three teen girls are affected by the “blue gold” trade. Sylvie’s family had to flee the Democratic Republic of the Congo after her father was killed by a rogue militia gang in the conflict for control of coltan. The


Coltan, or “blue gold,” is a rare mineral used in making cell phones and computers. Across continents, the lives of three teen girls are affected by the “blue gold” trade. Sylvie’s family had to flee the Democratic Republic of the Congo after her father was killed by a rogue militia gang in the conflict for control of coltan. The refugee camp where she now lives is deplorable, and Sylvie yearns for a way out—to save not only herself, but her remaining family. Laiping labors in a Chinese factory, soldering components for cell phones. She had left her small village to make her fortune, but the factory conditions are crushing, and the constant pressure to send money home adds to her misery. Yet when Laiping tries to improve her situation, she sees what happens to those who dare question the electronics company’s policies. Fiona is a North American girl who, in one thoughtless moment, takes a picture on her cell phone she comes to regret. In the aftermath, she learns not only about trust and being true to oneself, but the importance of fighting for what is right. All three teens are unexpectedly linked by these events.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The human costs of modern technology are explored through the alternating third-person narratives of three girls from different countries. Canadian Fiona sends her boyfriend a risqué selfie. In Africa, fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo has forced Sylvie to Tanzania's Nyarugusu Refugee Camp. The fighting's over columbite-tantalite ore, a key component in the manufacture of cellphones and other small, powerful electronic devices. In China, Laiping joins her cousin in the city to work for a better life in a factory that manufactures electronics like cellphones using coltan. Fiona, whose sext leaks, has the shortest story. Laiping accepts monotonous, hard work, believing the company's propaganda until she's faced with workers' rights abuses. The fictional factory, like notorious real-life analog Foxconn, even has suicide nets for employee jumpers. Despite her family's need to pay for a medical emergency, Laiping's wages are illegally withheld. Survivor Sylvie, who's lived through rape and war, holds what's left of her family together while working at the refugee clinic and dreaming of becoming a doctor. Her dream, difficult with family duties, becomes nearly impossible once the local warlord decides he'll marry her. The stories converge (though not seamlessly) at the conclusion. The prose is strongest when closest to the characters, weakest in didactic moments. In the afterward, Stewart explains the real-world situation and provides further research resources. Fictional characters make an important story accessible. (afterword, suggested reading) (Fiction. 14-18)
Finding Wonderland - Tanita Davis
Apt to start conversations which are less than comfortable. Apt to raise consciousness, and awareness. Well worth reading as a social studies companion, or for entertainment, and guaranteed to open up real conversation on what to do and how to be in the consumer sense.
Readerly, National Reading Campaign - Karen Doerksen
Artfully blending psychological insights with global politics and business ethics, Stewart demonstrates the interconnectedness of the global economy with elegant prose and page-turning cliffhangers.
Africa Access Review - Didier Gondola
The patient reader is rewarded with a philosophical ending as Stewart masterfully weaves all the threads together to form a common tale of resilience, courage, and hope.
CM Reviews - Joan Marshall
In this compelling story of injustice, the lives of three 15-year-old girls on three continents are wound together with the issue of how cell phones are made.... The main characters of Laiping, Sylvie and Fiona are all fascinating and realistic... Secondary characters, like Kai, the workers' rights advocate, Fiona's father and Laiping's friend Fen, are compelling in their own way and provide depth to the stories... The dialogue is particularly well done with the voice of each girl coming through clearly.... The message that an ordinary teen like Fiona can use the Internet and her father to influence world events will not be lost on the intended reader. The themes of sexual assault, worker's rights, war, bullying and refugee life will resonate with both boys and girls. Recommended.
Resource Links - Alison Edwards
Stewart has done an excellent job in presenting the stories of the three girls in a way that the reader will learn about and hopefully seek more info to act on issues presented in this book... will appeal to people interested in worldwide social justice issues.
Children's Literature - Kristi Bernard
Meet Fiona, Sylvie and Laiping. These three young women have a very different journeys. Their connecting thread is a substance known as Coltan or Blue Gold. It is a a mineral used in the production of cell phones and other electronics. The demand for this precious mineral is high and has caused horrible conflicts Fiona is a Canadian from Vancouver. Her connection to Coltan is the loss of her cell phone with an incriminating boob shot she texted to her boyfriend. When this picture gets into the wrong hands, she finds that it has been posted online and she has to endure all the jokes and even has become an outcast. Sylvie is from Tanzania and lives in a refugee camp only because her village was overrun by soldiers. Her father was brutally killed and she and her mother were raped. She wants to get away but the camp warlord has other plans for her and if she does not follow along others may die. Laiping lives in China. Her cousin gave her the impression that working in the factory could result in her having a lush life. But, she soon finds that is not the case. How will these three young women escape? Author Elizabeth Stewart has created a fast-paced read with a powerful message. Young readers will be engaged and enlightened as they learn about Coltan and its uses. We are a technologically driven society and this story is most certain to hit home. Reviewer: Kristi Bernard; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—The human price of technology is explored from the perspectives of three teen girls in this character-driven, realistic fiction novel. Set in the present, the story is told from three viewpoints. Fiona, a middle-class Canadian teen, is concerned with her popularity and self-image, especially as it relates to communication and technology devices. A split-second bad decision haunts her virtually, and she learns a big lesson in digital responsibility. Half a world away, Sylvie is a Congolese refugee living in Tanzania, where maintaining basic needs is a daily battle. Coltan, a mineral used in the technology that helps power cell phones and computers, is a resource that her people have killed and died for, and Sylvie is desperate to save her family in the wake of her father's death. In China, Laiping works long hours in a factory assembling cell phones, enduring conditions that have caused her fellow employees to develop serious medical conditions and in extreme cases take their own lives. The writing strikes a good balance between character development and action and uses a straightforward tone to deliver the story. Sylvie's daily life is dangerous, and her past includes scenes of extreme violence, though the revelation of these elements isn't glorified and the inclusion of these details gives her viewpoint authenticity and necessary background information for readers to understand what motivates the characters in her story line. A lengthy afterword gives readers statistics on the topics covered in the text and offers the author a chance to explain her inspiration for writing this story as well as her stance on the issues.—Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Product Details

Annick Press, Limited
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Stewart writes for film, television, and the internet. Her novel, The Lynching of Louie Sam, received much acclaim, including the International Reading Association's Notable Books for a Global Society 2013 award. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Blue Gold: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
MonicaFMF More than 1 year ago
Three girls on three different continents are connected ultimately through cell phone production. This tale tells of their lives and struggles. A crisp, factual narrative guides the reader through each girl's tale; however, the tales are interwoven which aids in showing how their lives are connected. Characters are flawed, authentic, emotional, and passionate. Overall, a enjoyable read.