This boy is not my responsibility
Resources are running out. Many countries have pledged that their citizens will only live until the age of 74 to preserve resources for as many people as possible. Years can be gifted from one person to another and criminals pay their sentence in life years. This is the world Mhairi lives in.
Mhairi has walked across continents. Since the thing that happened at the checkpoint, the thing she cannot think about, Mhairi has been set on one thing – survival. She has reached the Scottish border, but everything has changed since she was last here. There are checkpoints and detention centres and border patrols. There are crowds of displaced people looking for the same thing – a place where they can survive.
A young boy needs Mhairi’s help. He is an illegal, an alien, and joining up with him will make Mhairi’s journey more difficult. He’s not her responsibility … is he?
An exceptional piece of work which will make you look at the world a different way. The Survival Game poses a question. People in Britain are used to hearing about displaced people on television. What if we became the displaced – and how long before it happens?
Mhairi is fourteen, but she is not fourteen as we know it. She has crossed continents and fought for food and survived things so traumatic that she can’t think about them. She keeps those memories locked inside her ‘castle’ – the mental fortress she has built in her head in order to survive. Her voice is distinctive and harrowing. There are children in our world living Mhairi’s life. There are children in our world who are traumatised and desperate and prepared to do whatever it takes to survive. This is not a voice you will forget.
I kept turning the pages. I kept reading. There wasn’t any question of putting the book down because I had to know what happened to Mhairi and the boy she called Mo.
The story is set in the near future. In my lifetime. It’s proximity to the present makes its messages more chilling. This is a world where people have become so desperate they have lost all sense of humanity. There are too many people without resources. Instead of working to reverse the problem, those who have everything they need become defensive. They fight to protect what they have. To keep enough for themselves and their close family. The most frightening thing is this dystopia has already begun.
Following Mhairi – who, for all her protestations, is unable to see the little boy as a problem beyond her control, as a statistic, enables the reader to think about their own attitudes. If we want to leave the world in a better state than this we need to act. Fast.
This novel is exceptional in several ways – first in its craft. If this isn’t on several major prize lists next year there is no justice in the world. The voice is exceptionally strong, and the story opens the reader to empathy towards other human beings. On a big scale. I’m not going to pretend this is a cheerful read but it is compelling. This is a book we should celebrate.