Finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award
Cityline Book Club Pick
“A deep, unflinching yet loving look at injustice and power.” —Chatelaine
“A powerful and unforgettable novel” (Quill and Quire, starred review) about a young woman who must find the courage to secure her freedom and determine her own future
Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. As part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government, Elimina Dubois is one of just one hundred babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity.
But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Sent to an academy with new rules and expectations, Elimina befriends children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever way they know how. But when her life takes yet another unexpected turn, Elimina will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longed for after all.
Gutter Child reveals one young woman’s journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. As a modern heroine in an altered but all-too-recognizable reality, Elimina must find the strength within herself to forge her future in defiance of a system that tries to shape her destiny.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In the stirring tradition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this captivating novel depicts a haunting dystopia that feels disturbingly familiar. Dark-skinned Elimina is one of the the so-called children of the Gutter, young people conscripted to spend their lives working off a debt their people have supposedly owed the white Mainland colonizers for generations. Author Jael Richardson begins Elimina’s story with an absolute gut punch, as the teen is carted off to an “academy” where she begins training for her menial vocation and lives in fear of the barbarous punishments handed out for the slightest infraction. Elimina’s heart-wrenching journey prompts us to reflect on the realities of slavery and prison labour and ponder philosophical questions like what it means to be truly free. Tense and suspenseful, Richardson’s novel ultimately left us with a sense of hope.