Review – The Upper World by Femi Fadugba
The Upper World astounded me and not just because of the technical maths and science involved because that was pitched nicely in layman terms. It’s that and more: the well written representation of a London that I know, from the area to the people and issues.
Expectation is the first thing that came to mind. Why do we second guess people, why do we want to pigeon hole them, into convenient groups and stereotypes when there is more at play.
Similar is not the same. Alike is not identical.
We are more than what we appear to be.
This story on the surface is about a group of teenagers from South London, it features families, gangs, violence and also time travel.
My short description does not do justice at all to this book and its evocative themes.
Femi Fadugba wrote a book that crosses genres, it is fantasy, it is science fiction, yet it is poignantly contemporary. Key themes such as racism, poverty and deprivation are illuminated. We are shown through the characters how it shapes child development, changes family dynamics and urban places. We see the consequences of stigmatisation and attainment.
Here and Now and Then
We follow Esso in the now, who as a teen makes mistakes which is to be expected but one of his has consequences that snowballs. The ramifications of which Esso’s not willing to accept. Esso wants to re-do an event, to ensure that the future is changed. But can he and if he can, should he?
It’s 15 years later and the future is here, we meet Rhia, how is she connected to Esso? Why are they drawn to The Upper World and can they solve the mystery that haunts them both?
This is a book with the focus on children. Yes they are technically teenagers, but who are held accountable as adults. Children who are fulfilling adult obligations within their homes and on the streets. Even at school there is only a cursory attempt to treat them as minors. At home, there are issues to face too.
When life is difficult for children and they face adversity, there’s always the hope that there is a space for them where they can feel safe, where someone has their back. The Upper World shows that school and its authority figures are not that place of support. Where is?
Shout out to the narrators
I listened to the audiobook and was blown away by the two narrators. Tom Moutchi and Weruche Opia nailed it – all the accents (the therapist was a bit iffy, but could pass), the inflections and mannerisms shone through. They added an extra dimension to the narrative. I could visualise each and everyone that I was introduced to.
Totally smashed it.
After reading The Upper World, my last thoughts were where are the mentors, community leaders, government initiatives to invest into the lives of the future. We (the human race) are only storing up problems for ourselves and the world ahead if we don’t prepare our children well and give them the opportunity to become all that they are capable of being.
And as a parent, it reminded me that our children must know their history, and also understand the present, where they fit in and where they can reach to.
These hard themes that spoke to me, the science, personalities, together with the humour that shone through, balanced out the stark reality faced by these young people. Really liked it.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an outstanding read.
4 Stars - Really Liked It