‘The Upper World’ – Femi Fadugba

An epic read, VERY difficult to put down and I cannot wait to see how this transfers to the screen in its upcoming adaptation for Netflix. Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me the chance to read this debut novel before publication in exchange for my thoughts.

The Upper World is a place alluded to by a number of people. Nobody is convinced of its existence, and those who talk of it are not of the best mental health. The Upper World is a place that seems to exist outside our reality, where time effectively stops and where there is always the chance to affect events in the real world.

Set in Peckham, this story is mind-bending in the best possible way. It unashamedly revels in its nerd-factor, delights in the depiction of its teen characters and their lives, and yet the thing I found more challenging to read and understand was the language used between some of the characters. With the help of my own teenage sons, the finer points were explained and I could focus on working out – as best I could – the details of the story.

The main focus is Esso in the present, and then Rhia sixteen years in the future (who ends up meeting an adult Esso). These two characters are linked in a way that means they need each other for their stories to play out.

Our first meeting with Esso sets up a story like no other. After being involved in a car crash, Esso is convinced he has experienced a world where he starts to see snatches of the future. On the brink of expulsion, caught in a dangerous situation with someone he has known since childhood, he is desperate to do what he has to in order to protect someone close to him. To do this he needs Rhia…a young girl in care (in 2035) who has her own questions about her past…and who is similarly desperate to protect those close to her.

That is as much detail as I can give. Trust me, this is a cleverly-plotted and engaging story that picks you up and spits you out once it’s all over.