Reviews /

The Worlds We Leave Behind

Authored by A.F. Harrold
Illustrated by Levi Pinfold
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Tagged , ,

The Worlds We Leave Behind: This is an incredible book about friendship, family, and memory. The main character, Hex, or Hector, is blamed for causing an accident, whilst playing in the woods, and runs away. He discovers a clearing in the woods, and just as in any fairy tale, a strange cottage, inhabited by a mysterious old lady. She offers him a deal to remove those who wronged him from the world and Hex can continue to live his life as before.

This powerful opening to the story, beginning in the everyday world, soon becomes far darker, and relentlessly gripping. The mysterious atmosphere of the woods seeps into the rest of the narrative as the characters live through a series of alternative existences within the space of one week. The story pivots around the consequences of a single, unintended but careless action, and the results of a brief moment of terrible anger, as the other characters and their siblings are drawn into a world far grimmer even than their everyday experiences of friendships, bullying, and family breakdowns.

The book is illustrated throughout by Levi Pinfold’s beautiful black and white drawings which create a haunting atmosphere, reinforcing the author’s narrative and sometimes reaching even further into a world of horror and the supernatural.

However, the main thing about the book which struck me, as a reader, was the struggle to find out what happened as quickly as possible, in contrast with the urge to pause and reflect on the philosophical issues which arise throughout. What is it worth to get your own back? How far would you go to put things right? How might the world look after one small change? For a KS2/KS3 reader this may well prove an enormous draw if they enjoy the darker side of fantasy and could provoke some intriguing classroom discussion.

I thought that this was a fabulous book – one of the best I’ve read in the last year! The author declares that he hopes he has created, ‘a mysterious story that includes in it a spark of hope that change is possible, that people can be good and that a new morning always comes’. Highly recommended.