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)