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Gutter Child

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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.

370 pages, Paperback

First published January 26, 2021

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About the author

Jael Richardson

4 books218 followers
Jael Richardson is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life, a memoir based on her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. The Stone Thrower was adapted into a children’s book in 2016 and was shortlisted for a Canadian picture book award. Richardson is a book columnist on CBC’s q. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and lives in Brampton, Ontario where she founded and serves as the Executive Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD). Her debut novel, Gutter Child, arrives January 2021 with HarperCollins Canada.

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5 stars
1,370 (27%)
4 stars
2,133 (42%)
3 stars
1,142 (22%)
2 stars
279 (5%)
1 star
67 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 642 reviews
Profile Image for Krista.
1,399 reviews592 followers
December 30, 2020
I stop, and when Josephine turns to me, I whisper the only words I can manage, my throat still thick and tight: “I don’t belong here. You’re all...I’m not...I’m not a Gutter child.”

I was handed an ARC of Gutter Child and told I ought to read it because it’s going to be a BIG and IMPORTANT book in the new year. I now understand that its author, Jael Richardson, is the founder and director of FOLD (the Festival of Literary Diversity) and she is an impassioned speaker on the fundamental necessity of encouraging and promoting diverse voices in literature — a movement I am 100% behind — but I’m afraid this book doesn’t read as BIG or IMPORTANT. There is social commentary, but it comes off as very basic; I think this might be better marketed as a Young Adult novel, and not only because the main characters are all teenagers and the writing is a touch melodramatic, but because this would be an excellent prompt for a discussion about the history of institutionalised racism — vile institutions like slavery and apartheid — in the same way that The Marrow Thieves provided teaching opportunities around residential schools and the history of racism against Canada’s First Nations. I want to stress that as a YA novel, this could be quite a valuable eye-opener, but it didn’t add to my own knowledge or understanding of the Black experience and the contrived melodrama didn’t reach me emotionally. (Note: I read an ARC and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.)

When I drew pictures of Mother and me, I used Peach for her and Chestnut for myself. “Why is your skin named after something soft and sweet and mine is something hard and bitter?” “Because you are so much tougher,” she said. I thought that was a very good answer. And maybe it’s true. But I am forced to be tough. It takes a particular kind of strength to exist in a world where you are not wanted that doesn’t feel like strength at all. Like giving up or giving in would be easier, smarter even. Maybe this is my chestnut, my toughness. The fact that I am still here.

Gutter Child opens with our main character, Elimina Dubois, being delivered to a boarding school. It is immediately apparent that whatever society this is set in (I found it helpful to imagine an alt-history of maybe Australia), people are divided into the white-skinned Mainlanders (who are in charge) and the Black “Gutter folk” (who do all the real labour). Elimina had been raised to this point outside of the system — by an adoptive Mainlander mother who died suddenly when Elimina was fourteen — so the trajectory of the novel is pretty much her being put into different settings and situations where people can tell her the true history of this country and her own people. Despite believing that her adoptive mother had loved her and had done her best to protect Elimina from the horrible Mainlanders outside their door (Elimina wasn’t allowed to attend school or eat in restaurants, she couldn’t even walk down the street with her mother without suffering abuse), a main theme in the story is that Black folks should stick with other Black folks; that supporting one another within the Black community is more important than trying to gain acceptance in the white world :

Gutter folk are poor in position, but don’t nobody do family like us. And we don’t have to be family to be family, if you know what I’m saying. Wherever we are, we find family.

I’ll say again: this really felt YA. Elimina has a lot of angst trying to fit in at the academy and make friends, there are awkward (and non-explicit) romantic interludes, the history and social systems are revealed in a series of infodumps, and every chapter ends on a squishy bit like this:

There’s a long quiet where I just sit and think, listening to the wind. Part of me wants to be angry, but part of me wants to forgive. And I lift my knees and put my head in my hands because I don’t know which feeling to let in.

And I’ll say again: if this is marketed as YA, I think it is an easy and relatable enough read that high school students would find it interesting, and even more importantly, I think they might find it illuminating. This is not meant as a slight against YA, but I don’t feel like I was the right audience for this.
Profile Image for Maria.
537 reviews343 followers
March 17, 2021
My most anticipated of early 2021 did not disappoint! If you’re looking for a book that explores the affects (effects?) of colonization and institutional racism, this is for you! You’ll definitely learn something.

Sure, this book is marketed for adults but our main characters are teens so that might be a bit off putting for you, but the story is what matters here!

I really don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil the story! But just know that this novel is worth the read, and I can see it being such a great powerhouse for schools, and finally getting on the school reading lists that are outdated to begin with.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
April 19, 2021
Captivating, enlightening, & powerful!

GUTTER CHILD by JAEL RICHARDSON was an excellent, relevant, easy yet complex, and painfully difficult story to read but ultimately it was so heartwarming and filled with so much hope. I was immediately drawn into this story and absolutely loved reading Elimina’s coming of age story. She was such a likeable and strong female lead.

Even though the setting is an imagined world it felt so realistic and easy to believe in considering the world that we are living in today. The author did a wonderful job with the themes that were explored in this novel. She made me believe and vividly see into Elimina’s world.

The pacing is high for most of the story for me but it did slow down a little bit near the end. Honestly I’m not exactly sure if it's because the story was coming to an end and I didn’t want it to or if the tension just wasn’t there for me anymore. As I am typing this I do believe that I just felt like the ending was a little bit rushed because I didn’t want it to end and it left me wanting more. So I’m definitely in to read a follow-up book if the author so chooses and I’d highly recommend this amazing story!
Profile Image for NILTON TEIXEIRA.
893 reviews305 followers
July 18, 2021
Well…. lately I’ve been unlucky with my reading choices.
I’m not going to analyze this book, like so many did, as that is not my purpose for reading a book. I read for pleasure and my expectations are to be thrilled and entertained at that moment.
This book started very well and I was engaged and happy with the writing.
Unfortunately, after 35% or 40% it became repetitive and (gasp!) boring.
At 70% I had lost my interest.
Although the topic is very touching and thought provoking (social classes, racism…) the storyline wasn’t strong enough to keep me entertained. I was absolutely numb after a while.
The between the lines may be subtle and may be current with the recent discovery of unmarked graves of indigenous children in Canada, of children that were practically kidnapped from their family and forced to live in “special institutions” ran by the Catholic Church.
This book is classified as a dystopian fiction, but I did not feel that the writing was good enough to evoke that atmosphere..
The writing is quite decent and I think that this is a good debut.
The concept is interesting, no doubt about it, but the development of the storyline failed to keep me interested in reaching its conclusion.
I was really expecting a groundbreaking book and I reckon that I may be in the minority, once again.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,155 reviews311 followers
April 1, 2021
4.5 stars

A painful story set in a fictional world where the indigenous population has been segregated and forced to pay their colonizers a life debt that springs from a lost rebellion fought generations ago.

Refelecting heavily on our own experience with Western colonization, the Mainlanders in Gutter Child have created and enforce a society where the invisible chains of systemic racism are made manifest, and the existential debt levied on the indigenous people of colour (or "Gutters") is made real and accountable.

None of the things that happen to the main character, Elimina, will seem too far fetched. Richardson has taken what we now see as the familiar and insidious results of colonization on indigenous and people of colour, and simplified them down to their most basic elements of systemic racism and poverty, and loss of individual and cultural identity.

But it isn't all sadness. Elimina's journey causes her to reevaluate and, in many cases, reinvent her identity. I loved a particular chapter where Elimina has her hair done for the first time, and the woman issues an invitation to her look for beauty in her own reflection rather than the reflection of others.

This is also a story about creating family and a sense of home as a key aspect of finding identity. In the end, Elimina finds that she has the power to make this happen, and she doesn't need to fulfill someone else's idea of her in order to find freedom and be happy.

Gutter Child is simple yet complicated, difficult and painful yet ultimately filled with hope and love.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Plant Based Bride).
430 reviews4,891 followers
March 14, 2023
Gutter Child is a book that takes the realities of institutionalized racism and pushes it to a dystopian extreme to prove a point, and it does it well. I do believe, however, that it would be most effective for teens, potentially used as a jumping-off point for discussion in class.

What I appreciated most about this book were its world-building, vivid characterization, and the themes it explored, including colonization, slavery, residential schools, the model minority, the myth of "benevolent" oppression, and the ways white supremacy works to pit minority groups against each other for its own gain.

This book was not watered down or sanitized, despite the distinctly YA feeling of the characters and writing style. There were moments of such profound despair that I had to sit back and process for several minutes in silence, but the story was so immersive that I was unable to stay away for long.

I would love for this book to be introduced into early high school or even potentially late elementary school curriculum in Canada, as I feel the discussions that could be had around it could lead to an increased awareness of and empathy for the experiences of people of colour here in Canada and around the world. I certainly would have benefitted greatly from reading this at that formative age.

(Not to say that it can't be read and appreciated by adults - I, at 30, am an example of that!)

I will certainly look out for any future work from Jael Richardson. It's always a pleasure to come across a new Canadian author whose work has so much to give!

Trigger/Content Warnings: abuse, forced sex work, indentured servitude, oppression, suicide, teen pregnancy, rape, racism, murder of an infant, miscarriage, police brutality

You can watch me talk about all the books I read in February as I set up my reading journal here: https://youtu.be/NY7bgSmoggM

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Profile Image for Alanna King.
301 reviews23 followers
December 8, 2020
I'm writing this on November 3, and I'd like to say that's just coincidence but as the United States wakes up to election day, I am finishing the brand new book, and first time novel, for Jael Richardson. If you don't know that name let me tell you how she's made an impact on my life already. She and I first met when she started to talk about the need for diverse books at our school board's literacy day. We got to know each other better as she began the FOLD festival and I attended learning for the first time to call myself white, middle-aged, heteronormative and cisgendered. Later when I convinced our body of librarians to have her keynote for the Ontario School Library Association at the Superconference, she became a household name for school libraries. Somewhere in there she paused, or delegated or went on some sort of spiritual vision quest in the desert, because she dug deep and found Gutter Child within herself.

I don't want to go out too far on a limb here but at the risk of inflating your expectations, I think this book may be the answer we need to stop teaching To Kill a Mockingbird in Canadian schools today. It is definitely as impactful as The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline and Scarborough by Catherine Hernandes. It reminds me of the way that both Kekla Magoon's The Rock and the River and Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give have taken years of conflict and injustice and turned them so that young people, heck ALL people, might finally be able to see things for what they really are.

In this book, I see Richardson's homage to the work started by The Black Panthers and how the most meaningful way that you can rise above your own feelings of depression and futility is to help others. Richardson intentionally calls out the bleak history of colonialism, the slave trade, the Underground Railroad, and even the evangelical pacifist movement of Martin Luther King, never letting the history shine too brightly as the way forward. Instead each of these tributes is flipped to show the complexity of a series of perceptions, freedom fighting and terrorism, confederation and broken promises, all fuelled by a corrupt and voracious media. I see J.D. Salinger and Anthony Burgess and George Orwell who started riots with their derisive writing about dystopias in a not too distant future. Like 1984, The Catcher in the Rye and A Clockwork Orange, the world Richardson has built in Gutter Child feels so wrong because the fragile seams of our current society are rapidly coming apart.

The circumstances of Elimina's childhood, and her rise and fall from Mainland's approval remind me of Alice Walker's The Color Purple and Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees. Richardson's unpacking what it means as an adult to never have known your family, to be trapped in that longing to know your mother is so tender and full of angst. My heart broke over and over again as Elemina tried to both find and escape her past. There are so many elements of this book that work to create a masterful combination of parable, homage and a hopeful strength that I can't wait to read the sequel....assuming that we get to know Lima's next steps, the legacy that she creates for D.J. and whether or not Rowan's dire straits can ever be rectified.
This is the must-read book of the year and I can't wait to teach with it.

Profile Image for Rosie.
3 reviews1 follower
October 29, 2021
I so wanted to love this book. I was drawn into it by the premise and the author, who is the executive director of FOLD (the Festival of Literary Diversity), advocating for more diversity in literature which is something I fully believe in and support.

The story is of a world divided into two, the white Mainlanders and the black Gutter people. The story opens with Elimina, a project case baby who was born in the Gutter and given to a Mainland mother, being brought to an academy where Gutter people must learn to work for the Mainlanders to pay off debt left by ancestors due to manipulation and thievery done by the Mainlanders.

The story is a coming of age about a girl who is resilient through all her hardships and traumatic experiences. The story was strong, the dystopian world (which is not far from being reality) was so well built up and explained within the story. I just felt it was more of a YA novel than adult fiction. Upon reading the synopsis, I fully expected to cry, but I could not get attached to the characters (aside from David, I love David) due to the seemingly juvenile writing. Looking at goodreads, I do see it is tagged both as a YA novel and adult fiction, but I feel like this story would do better in the right audience which is YA. This is a strong story and a great learning tool for young people, especially those with privilege, to learn from and do their part, which is listening to and empathizing with and making voices of minorities stronger and louder, but I just feel like I wasn’t the right audience for it.

This will not be the last of Jael Richardson that I read as she has a gift for storytelling, however, due to the fact that I tend to stray away from YA fiction, this particular novel just was not for me.
Profile Image for Jan Priddy.
752 reviews145 followers
April 7, 2021
Disappointing. YA fans might appreciate it, but the writing is flat, the situation is derivative and melodramatic without drawing this reader into the drama. Despite the situation of a young girl thrust out of a sheltered environment by the sudden death of her adoptive mother into a baldly exploitative one, there is nothing new or compelling here.

I am seriously annoyed with myself for ordering this book, a waste of $25 at a time I am trying to be more frugal.

They will make a movie of this and it will be better than the book.
Profile Image for Zsa Zsa.
388 reviews68 followers
July 29, 2021
Mixed feelings about this book.
I loved the diversity. I loved the POV and the premise was interesting. I found it to be another version of the hunger games as in it was futuristic dystopian YA novel but on many aspects lacked the complexities put forward in that book. The characters seemed a bit too rough and exaggerated. The ending was anti-climactic. Even though it might have been the same note as the hunger games. I loved that it was probing the systemic racism. It had its own rise and falls and suspenseful moments.
It was also a fast read.
Profile Image for Monika.
64 reviews
February 8, 2021
I read this book alongside my sister, so we took our time reading through it, reading only four chapters a day. This was often frustrating, because this book is so well-written, I could have sat down to read it all in one day. I'm thankful for the thoughtful pace we set though, because it gave my sister and me a chance to sit with everything we read and discuss the many real world parallels. It gave us an opportunity to really talk out the whole story and how it made us feel - our anger at such an openly unjust system, our sadness for the characters who were failed, our immense hope for Elimina's life. We also believe that this is such an important book to be taught in high school, so I hope some teachers take note and add it into their curriculum. There's a lot to discuss and think through with this book. I'll be waiting (im)patiently for a sequel so I can continue to root Elimina on.
Profile Image for ❀ Susan G.
704 reviews54 followers
March 15, 2021
The Gutter Child was hard to put down. As I finished the last chapter, I am feeling that there needs to be 2 more books, much like the Hunger Games and Divergent series.

The strength and resilience that supports Elimina is palpable as she experiences loss after loss, living in a world that didn't want her, that conspired against her and that was full of unfairness, racism and abuse. The reader feels the tension through the whole book, applauding when it seems that she is getting ahead and experiencing the loss and desperation as she continues to struggle.

This would be a great book for young adults, helping them reflect on all challenges with diversity and equity that continue it 2021.

Profile Image for Jasmine.
9 reviews
May 13, 2021
I didn’t even finish the book. It was extremely slow and I honestly just did not enjoy it. Hopefully one day I can return to this book and try and it again but until then I am definitely setting it aside
Profile Image for Sloane .
110 reviews5 followers
March 28, 2021
Every once in a while a book comes along that gives you pause. A book that makes you reconsider the system you live and operate in without telling you that you should do so. Lessons through storytelling have a unique way of speaking to you quietly, yet allowing you to hear the enunciation of every word.

This is Gutter Child. And Jael, I am listening.

Through the voice of Lima and the injustices she and the Sossi people face, readers will see parallels to modern day society and the weight of generational trauma. A weight that even if you train to lift, is designed to crush you. A glimpse into what it feels like to spend every waking moment of your life trying to prove you’re worthy to a system that is not worthy of you.

This broke me. And despite the fact that I strap on my sneakers and run to books that make me cry, this book felt different. I think it’s because it was NOT historical fiction. It was dystopian, but it was here and it was now. Our society is very much the Mainland in so many ways and none of them am I proud of.

The notion that an entire community of people are born with a debt that they need to work off to be considered “free” (equal) and that even when they do play into the system that is out to get them, they are targeted, preyed on and abused. Ooof. It’s heavy. You feel that weight as you read it because you know it’s real. Your family, friends, neighbours or even strangers experience this life. When dystopian feels real, it’s a wake up call.

This book is equal parts magic and profound. I checked and the @torontolibrary has 72 physical copies (with a wait list of 265) and 40 audio copies (with a wait list of 284) – that is not enough. This book needs to be read by the masses and if this book speaks to anything, it is that it needs to be accessible to everyone.
Profile Image for kelseyandherbooks .
332 reviews271 followers
March 20, 2021
I read Gutter Child slowly, wanting to read and absorb every beautiful word and detail that Jael Richardson used to create this book.

Gutter Child is a commentary on race and class, about Indigenous people and stolen land. It is set in a dystopian time, but it is plain to see that Richardson was guided by our own history.

Despite the focus on heavier topics and being difficult to read, it’s also an easy book to get into. The chapters are short and engrossing, Elimina is easy to root for and the cast of supporting characters, as well as the different locations featured, add layer upon layer of depth.

This is a book worth reading.
Profile Image for Eva.
474 reviews26 followers
April 22, 2021
“Don’t go looking for your reflection in someone else’s mirror.”

Oh how this book affected me and how valuable it is for people to read right now!!!

Gutter child is the story of five young people who meet at the Livingstone Academy on the Mainland of a fictional land. The children were born in the Gutter, a section that is full of hardship and one where people can work much of their lives and not have the freedoms of the mainlanders. They are at the academy to learn to work and to do work until they graduate and are auctioned off to employers where they can begin paying off their debts with the hopes of gaining Redemption Freedom.

The system is based on one familiar to me as a Canadian. I live in a country that has been colonized by non indigenous persons, Canada stole their land, changed the laws under which indigenous peoples could live, sent them to learn the Canadian ways in Residential schools and at times were adopted out to non indigenous families when the Canadian government determined a parent unfit to raise their children or grandchildren.

This book is not about indigenous peoples or any other identified groups specifically but if you don’t find yourself thinking about the injustices present today when reading this book then I encourage you to go back and read it.

Black Lives Matter, protests, racism, police brutality and use of force against persons of colour. These are the things that kept coming up for me while reading this book.

This book is going to make you think. Writing this review I am inundated with just how many relevant themes the author was able to cover in this book all while weaving a story with some hope, beautifully developed characters, lines that you want to read more than once for their beauty and that inspires me to take more actions than I currently am to forward diverse voices and stand up against hate.

Gutter Child falls under dystopian fiction but is not so far from present day reality.

This novel is one of the best books I have ever read and I will recommend this book to anyone who will listen to me and will push it on teachers to teach in school.

I feel like I could gush on this book all day and urge you to read it. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.
Profile Image for Toronto Bibliophile .
189 reviews18 followers
March 3, 2021
Just finished reading GUTTER CHILD by Jael Richardson.

I would recommend this one to fans of Margaret Atwood. A dystopian world that feels pretty realistic in today's society.

There's the Mainland for the privileged, and The Gutter for the poor. To make it to the Mainland, you must work off your debt to society.

However Elimina our MC was part of a social experiment, of 100 babies taken from the Gutter by the government to the Mainland. When her Mainland mother dies, she must go back and work off her debt like other Gutter children at the academy. Thrown into a completely different lifestyle with new rules and expectations Elimina will need to do what it takes to gain her freedom. But what does freedom look like for Elimina compared to normal Gutter children? Will she have what it takes to survive the Gutter?

Richardson does an amazing job of creating a world that feels very realistic in today's society, and openly discusses race issues, and privilege. I think this one is going to be extremely popular and would make an amazing bookclub pick, as there are many topics to talk about.

Also Jael if you are reading this, is there going to be a sequel? I need more of Elimina's story!
Profile Image for Emmkay.
1,222 reviews87 followers
June 6, 2021
Dystopian story about a world in which Indigenous people are saddled with debt ascribed to them and their families by the Mainlanders who colonized their land, and confined forcibly in an area known as the “Gutter.” The only escape is generally if a Gutter child is sent out to an “academy” to train as an indentured servant, which enables them to work, at least in theory, towards Redemption Freedom for themselves and their family. The protagonist is a special “project” case, a Gutter child adopted into Mainland society but now forced into an academy. Straight-forwardly written and predictable, and I think would be well suited for YA readers and could prompt interesting discussions about how what is ‘dystopian’ for the rest of us is strongly grounded in actual experiences of Indigenous people. A fairly engaging read, although neither dystopian nor YA are my reading material of choice.
Profile Image for Gianna Lian.
83 reviews
February 12, 2023
⬇️watch my wrap up for a more in depth review!⬇️

rating: 3.5/5⭐️s

•it is definitely my favourite book I’ve been forced to read for school which was a nice surprise (grade 12 English)
•I thought the story had so much depth and really spread some important and valuable lessons
•I really enjoyed the plot and how the book was laid out with the series I’d events/conflicts
•I acc rlly enjoyed the authors writing and felt very connected with the story
•I liked how in depth the characters were, especially the main character (elimina)
•I feel like the story as a whole was pretty powerful and really heartbreaking
•it was sad to know the characters in this book lived this way, suffering and what’s even more sad is that there are places where people suffer like this in real life
•for a school book, I did enjoy this one

•I did feel like I wanted more from the ending but for how it was written, I really loved the last page… it was the perfect closing and felt powerful. It stuck with me
•not exactly the type of book I typically am interested in picking up
•I feel like it was kind of dragged out at certain points
•got a little bit confusing towards the end
•just feels like a 3⭐️ book
Profile Image for Riley (runtobooks).
Author 1 book40 followers
January 24, 2021
this book was... not great. i understand what the author was trying to do, to illustrate racial disparities between "mainlanders" and "gutter" but it was just so over simplified. the story also operated on a premise of providing information only when it was convenient to the loose plot (of which there wasn't a whole lot). the characters came and went at times that were all too convenient, and none of them were likeable or really memorable in any way. everything just tied together too nicely. except for the ending, which was very abrupt and didn't provide even a hint of resolution.

this book is marketed as adult, but read more like a young adult novel. maybe i've just read too many better books doing the same work.

thanks to harper collins canada for an advanced readers copy!
April 1, 2023
My Rating: 3.5/5

It took me almost the whole month of March to read this book, which kind of tells me that I was not overly invested in it. Deciding to try about 1/4 of the book via audiobook helped me feel more connected to Elimina, and increased my overall enjoyment of the story.

I did appreciate how the dystopian theme was essentially drawing parallels from real life examples of one's life as a marginalized individual, blatant social injustices, and power discrepancies/distribution.

This book had a lot of potential but I ultimately did not feel overly connected to the characters or plot. Something was missing for me. It was an okay+ read.
Profile Image for Shannon.
4,539 reviews226 followers
February 18, 2021
There’s nothing better for me than a really good dystopia and Jael Richardson’s Gutter child delivered just that!! The story follows Elimina Dubois as she comes to terms with being born into the “Gutter system” - a form of indentured servitude and that she will have to work all her life to achieve “Redemption Freedom.” A heartbreaking coming of age story that deals with racial injustices and has strong connections with the society we live in today (as the best dystopians do). I really enjoyed the allusions to Langston Hughes poems and how Elimina fought hard for her family and dreams despite living in a seemingly hopeless system where many others gave in or gave up: “I’m trying not to lose heart, but I feel like we’re trapped in a cage of injustice.” I heard the author give a virtual talk with the KPL and she was amazing. I was excited to learn she’s working on a sequel and that there’s already great enthusiasm to have Gutter child worked into high school curriculums. This book pairs really well with other high-calibre Canadian dystopias like The Handmaid’s tale, Crosshairs, The illegal and The birth yard. If you’re looking for your next great read this is it! HIGHLY recommend Gutter child. It is excellent on audio too! This book will definitely be on my favourites list for 2021!
Profile Image for Melissa Labelle.
13 reviews2 followers
March 20, 2023
I really wanted to love this because I enjoy dystopian novels and the topics presented, but I felt like the story was repetitive, lacked momentum, and that the different sections were disjointed and awkward.
Profile Image for Roanna25.
213 reviews
February 8, 2023
3.5 rounded up. A interesting take on race and how people of color have been treated. It's not a fun book. But it is well written.
February 17, 2022
5 Stars

If there is one word that I can use to describe "Gutter Child" it's phenomenal. Once I started reading this book, I could not stop as it completely captivated me from start to finish. "Gutter Child" is not an easy book to read as it takes a look at some truly heartbreaking components including child labour, rape, and separation. "Gutter Child" is undeniably well written and gutwrenching to read and it definitely pulled out all of the feels for me. It's been a while since I read a book that I found so incredibly thought-provoking and "Gutter Child" is unquestionably one of those books.

The book tells the story of a dystopian society (dystopia being one of my favourite genres) that seperates its people into the Mainland and the Gutter. The mainland people are the haves and the gutter people are the have nots. The story focuses on Elimina, one of one hundred babies from the gutter society who was born into a special project. At birth she was sent to the mainland as one of the special projects. After her mother passes she is sent to an academy for gutter children where she must learn skills and trades in order to prepare for her career in the mainland upon completion at the academy. She will automatically inherent debt as a result of being sent to the academy and she must spend the rest of her days paying off her debt, for simply being who she is, a gutter child.

While at the academy, Elimina's life takes an unexpected turn and she is forced to make very difficult choices. Elimina will need to fight for her freedom like never before and she will meet and loose many people along the way.

In addition to a compelling plotline, "Gutter Child" also tells the story of remarkable characters with riveting backgrounds of their own. All of the characters' stories intertwine beautifully to create an overall enjoyable experience for those reading the book. The character development is utterly ingenious and everything comes together masterfully to tell an unforgettable story.

"Gutter Child" is not a book that will leave you walking away with a smile as it ends on a rather depressing and realistic note, but it will leave you gushing over it's author's ability to write an incredible story that tugs on your heartstrings and it will leave you wanting more. "Gutter Child" is one of those books that reminds you that life happens, and sometimes, no matter what happens, we are going to indure pain, trauma, loss, greif, and hardships. It has most definitely earned a coveted spot on my to be kept forever bookshelf.

"Gutter Child" is written by Jael Richardson, a Canadian author from Brampton, Ontario. I cannot wait to see what she brings forth next. Five stars all around. If I could rate this book at ten stars, I would. It's that good of a book.
Profile Image for Steph LaPlante.
334 reviews6 followers
March 4, 2023
Wow, I don't really know what else to say, but wow.
This book pulled me in from the very beginning, I couldn't put it down.
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