- The Good: Character driven story about an optimistic underage illegal immigrant
- The Bad: Lacks long-term character motivation
- The Literary: Multiple POV chapters from adults that surround the child
Twelve-year-old Caleb is separated from his mother on the way to England as they flee the drought and wildfires of southern Europe. Outside Manchester, Caleb is picked up by traffickers, but lands an easy job making bespoke clothing items for a woman who seems kind. But after she hits him, Caleb takes another opportunity to escape. He hides in the woods, finds another work situation, then escapes again. He remains optimistic, learning new trades, deciding to put his trust in only a few adults. But making a way in the world as an underage illegal isn’t easy.
Bridge 108 is ostensibly a dystopian scifi, but the setting is more a backdrop to Caleb’s coming-of-age story. Late in the twenty-first century, global warming ravages the planet, and refugees flock to England. Sprinkles of advanced technology enhance the near-future world. Caleb misses his opportunity to get brain-chipped because his sister is caught vandalizing, making his genes suspect. But upon entering the system in England, he accepts the inoculations; some say you’re not the same person after, but Caleb doesn’t mind not feeling so angry all the time, and he doesn’t have to worry about becoming addicted to alcohol.
My favorite aspect of the novel is the multiple POVs, with Caleb as the primary storyteller. But he’s surrounded by a slew of adults, some recurring, some one-offs, and their perspectives add a lot of clarity to Caleb’s situation. It’s a complicated world, and the grownups do the best they can, but no one person has the power to fix the problem, and those in the system have even less of an idea how to make things better.
Unfortunately, the pacing and motivation is lacking. Caleb runs away, finds a place to stay for a while, then runs away again. Caleb suffers from a variety of worldly dangers, but he doesn’t have a goal that unifies the plot, so the story feels very meandering and episodic, without any real end point. Without any friends or connections, Caleb can only rely on rumors to know what his options are, so he ends up making a lot of decisions quickly but without much expectation.
Recommended for fans of dystopian scifi, particularly with a interest in child trafficking and immigration. Thanks to Netgalley and 47North!