Plotted (though not written) in Dickensian style, this debut thrusts two illegal immigrants out into the streets and conveys them to London where they fall in with a gang of child shoplifters.
Four years after being sent for safety to England from violence-torn central Africa, 12-year-old Emmanuel and his little brother, Prince, live hand to mouth in the basement of their absentee uncle’s indoor marijuana farm in an unnamed town. When Prince gets into a fight in school and their furious uncle boots them out, the brothers flee to London, where they are rescued and recruited by “Mr. Green,” a glib, genial Fagin who shelters a dozen runaways in exchange for the wallets, cellphones and like loot they lift from crowded train stations and other locales. While Prince turns out to be a natural, Emmanuel guiltily hangs back and dreams of having a “proper home” one day. Ultimately that dream comes true for him and for Prince too, after a tragic gun accident. Though neither the urban setting nor the hardships and violence of street life are conveyed with particular sharpness in Emmanuel’s simply phrased narrative, his distress comes through clearly, as does the joy of settling in with a foster parent and being reunited with his brother.
More thought provoking than melodramatic or disturbing, this low-key outing should engage readers despite the pat happy ending. (Fiction. 10-12)