Review of The Worlds We Leave Behind

The Worlds We Leave Behind The Worlds We Leave Behind
by A. F. Harrold; illus. by Levi Pinfold
Intermediate, Middle School    Bloomsbury    256 pp.
2/23    9781547610952    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781547610969    $12.59

Beginning deceptively blandly, this tale soon slips into the uneasiness of horror and brain-teasing mystification. Best friends Hex and Tommo head to the woods to play on the rope swing over the creek. En route, little Sascha insists on joining them; through the boys’ rough play, she ends up with a broken arm. Afterward, Hex’s confused emotional response alienates Tommo and enrages Maria, Sascha’s older sister, who beats Hex up. So far, so ordinary…but in the forest is Missus, a “short, jolly” woman and her huge dog, Leafy. Wouldn’t you like to get revenge on the one who hurt you? Missus asks both Hex and Maria, separately. “We will simply persuade the world to forget them…your world will heal, reshape itself around the hole.” Before he can decide, Hex himself disappears, preempted by Maria’s choice. Thus we begin again in a new reality: off to the woods with his buddy Jayce is Tommo, who neither quite recalls nor quite forgets having had a best friend named Hex. “He could remember remembering, but couldn’t remember exactly what he’d remembered about this other, missing kid.” In this new world things are disconcertingly different from or disconcertingly resonant with Tommo’s memories. ­Harrold’s (The Song from Somewhere Else, rev. 5/17) creepy tale takes off with this altered world, uncanny in its innocuous but distressing changes (“Mum used to keep cactuses, but now there’s not a single cactus in the house,” Maria cries); that unsettling sense of the uncanny swells to out-and-out terror as Tommo makes his own visit to Missus. Pinfold’s chiaroscuro-esque, surreal illustrations raise the stakes on the crone from Disney’s Snow White: this isn’t for the timid.

Pubissue-From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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