When twelve-year-olds Willa and lover of mysteries Manny hear of a strange animal prowling around their town they set out to find it. Beneath a rare supermoon, the cog leads them into a cave that catapults them into an alternate reality and an impossible world without pollution, without conflict and where harmony and happiness rule.
Excited by this new possible, the duo are keen to share their discovery. But when no one believes them and with a global war imminent, they find themselves in a race against time to gather the evidence they need to prove that peace is possible if everyone is only willing to try…
Ross Welford’s latest thought-provoking read is an exciting and drama-filled adventure that explores some important topics - most notably war, peace and climate change. Set a few years ahead in a recognisable future, Into the Sideways World offers an intriguing premise where we head off into an alternate version of the world we live in. It is a parallel world that imagines how things could be if past decisions and actions had been different. Children’s books often involve travelling forward or backwards in time so it was refreshing to read a story that shifts the narrative and heads sideways instead.
With its vibrant rainbow colours, interesting people who live to impossible ages and environmentally friendly vehicles, the Sideways World is the most interesting of places and it is easy to see Willa and Manny’s attraction to it. The thought of everyone living in peace and harmony, with clean air, with plentiful food and without the conflict of war is something of an ideal. But even this ideal has its problems.
As the two worlds collide, Manny and Willa are faced with difficult decisions as revelations about families, relationships, friendships and wider issues all come to light leaving the duo to decide which version of the world they would prefer to be in. Whatever they decide, their choices will have life-changing consequences.
Willa and Manny are easy to root for and empathise with. Manny is a boy who has been in more foster homes than he can remember and has a mother that he knows is out there but just isn’t sure exactly where. Willa is a girl with troubles at home, arguing parents, a failing family business and a dad who faces the prospect of being recalled to the armed forces. This is more than enough for any twelve-year-olds to be dealing with, let alone trying to convince those closest to them of an an alternate reality and having to face the ever-more-likely prospect of World War Three.
Whilst Manny and Willa are brave and determined - everything twelve-year-olds can be - my absolute favourite character was Old Maudie. A life-long learner with a continuing desire to understand and explain things she is just wonderful in every possible way and makes the best hot chocolate in the world - Sideways or otherwise.
Ross Welford is a masterful storyteller and his writing enthrals and excites, so much so I read this book in one joyous afternoon. Towards the end I was racing through the pages, eager to see how things were going to turn out. The seventh book from Welford is another absolute treat!
With huge thanks to Harper Collins for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 10+.