Hey, hey, hey! Welcome back to the Big Kids Book Club.
It’s Thursday, so it’s time to jump right into another Mid-Week Review!
Today’s book: Into the Sideways World by Ross Welford
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: 20/01/2022
Suggested Age Range: 8+ Middle Grade
Genre(s): Adventure, Time-Travel, Other Worlds, Science Fiction
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (out of 5)
When twelve-year-olds Willa and Manny hear of a mysterious animal prowling their town, they are determined to prove it is real. Following the creature into a cave one full moon, they are swept into an alternate, ideal, world – one where pollution and conflict have been conquered decades ago and even their own families seem happier.
But when they return, no one believes them. So, with a global war looming in their own world, their quest for proof of the Sideways World becomes ever-more urgent, in a nail-biting race against time.
And Willa and Manny will have to make an impossible decision: because once you find a perfect world, can you ever leave it behind?
The story of Into the Sideways World is one that takes a little to get into. The premise is that it’s about 20 years in the future, and the world is on the precipice of war. (scarily relevant right???)
As Willamina, known simply as Willa to her family watches the nightly news, she finds herself worrying about her father being reactivated for active service should World War III break out. Added to this the financial decay of their family’s holiday park business is putting a strain on her parent’s relationship, and her sister Alex is stand-offish, Willa finds only her friend Manny for comfort.
When they first go into the strange world, its off the back of this mutant animal and a cave – the whole premise is a bit wibbly-wobbly, but then what sci-fi, time travel story isn’t without it’s fair share of make-believe.
It takes them a while to come to terms with the new world – there’s so many changes. 1. Dad no longer has his beard and him and mum are very much in love. 2. Her brother, who died just 8 days old survived thanks to better medical advances in this sideways world. And more importantly, 3. there’s no impending war here.
It takes Willa and Manny a day to come to terms with the fact that they’ve not travel forward or backwards in time – but sideways. All thanks to the change of 1 single moment in our history. A missed shot, and a grasped opportunity.
The books twists about the concept of peace, compromise, and stopping and listening to one another to a whole other level, with it’s impact able to cure more than our obsession with killing one another. But with the WWW (World Without War) celebrations approaching, Willa and Manny head back to their world, and come up with a plan to return to the Sideways world as they call it to get evidence that a world of peace is a possibility – before it’s too late!
I liked the drama and characters interaction in the book. I particularly liked the exploration of the brother’s character, with Willa getting to know the boy who was gone before she was born, and finding a peace in living a day in somebody else’s shoe, namely, her own self from another world.
Ross’s writing style is pensive, but full of charm and not without humour. Which is important when handling heavy exterior themes such as war and the fallout that it has at the family level. The seriousness is balanced by the heart-warming interactions between the family members, and reflects the inner thoughts and feelings of words unspoken, and the power they have should we find the courage to say them.
Overall, I feel with the way the world is at the moment – the greater historical climate we’re living through, I think this book holds up to be one of Ross’ best and deepest.
Perfect for a project in the classroom, or simply to read at home and think. A real conversation starter.