A new Emma Carroll book is always something to relish and The Week at World’s End is another masterclass in middle-grade historical fiction writing.
World’s End Close is dull. So dull, it is quite possibly the most boring place in the entire world. But whilst it may be boring where Stevie is, the world is on tenterhooks. Tensions are at crisis point between America and Russia and the threat of nuclear war is looming large. While the adults stress about whether they will survive to the end of the week, Stevie has uncovered a problem much closer to home. There’s a girl hiding in the coal shed. A disheveled Anna claims to be on the run from the poisoners and is in desperate need of help.
With not much else to do, Stevie and best friend Ray are more than happy to assist Anna. But as her behaviour becomes stranger by the hour, it is clear that Anna is hiding something. And when Stevie unearths a terrible family secret, it seems as if Anna’s arrival is no random event. All that Stevie and Ray can do is do the best they can to save the girl and hope that the world can save itself…
It takes an incredibly brave and skilled author to take one of the darkest events in history and turn it into a gripping, intriguing and enthralling mystery for a middle-grade audience but that is exactly what Emma Carroll has accomplished with dare I say it, her best book yet.
Set in a small village in England in 1962, and amidst the rising tensions of nuclear war and the likely possibility of the end of the world, this is a beautiful tale of finding hope in today for a better tomorrow. Weaving the politics of the time - including the Civil Rights movement - and the powerful themes of war, race, conflict, family and illness with an intriguing village mystery that ties the protagonists and the past atrocities of war together in the the most unthinkable of ways, The Week at World’s End is an edgy thriller that captivates from the start and never lets up as everyone wonders if they will survive the week. I was on tenterhooks from the start as what begin as two seemingly unconnected stories - the mystery of Anna and the Cuban Missile Crisis - become intertwined in the most troubling of ways.
Clearly defined characters and a richly evoked sense of time and place, transports readers to the swinging sixties and they will find themselves right at the heart of this story, nervously waiting for the next news broadcast. Spending a few hours in the lives of others and experiencing the fear, trepidation and panic that captured a nation is incredibly fulfilling albeit a little nerve-racking. It is fascinating that with the world on the brink of disaster, the normality of everyday life goes on; games of monopoly are played, newspaper rounds need to be completed and household chores are done.
Through an utterly absorbing read told over seven gripping and suspense-filled days, Carroll affords children the opportunity to learn about important historical events, champions the wonderful fighting sprit of youth in the face of unprecedented adversity - yes, words are sometimes all you need to fight a battle, even one that involves nuclear missiles - and encourages readers to find their own voice and to always speak out for what is right.
I count myself fortunate to have not lived through the week when the world was on the brink of imploding but I’m so glad that Carroll has vividly recounted the week that was and has made it accessible and thoroughly captivating for a middle-grade audience. This uplifting and heartwarming tale of friendship and speaking out for what you believe in exemplifies just how powerful courage and bravery are, even in the darkest of times.
With huge thanks to Allen and Unwin for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 9+.