TITLE: The Wild Way Home
AUTHOR: Sophie Kirtley
PAGE EXTENT: 256
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
GENRE: Middle Grade
SOURCE: ARC provided by the publisher in return for an honest review
MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
When Charlie’s longed-for brother is born with a serious heart condition, Charlie’s world is turned upside down. Upset and afraid, Charlie flees the hospital and makes for the ancient forest on the edge of town. There Charlie finds a boy floating face-down in the stream, injured, but alive. But when Charlie sets off back to the hospital to fetch help, it seems the forest has changed. It’s become a place as strange and wild as the boy dressed in deerskins. For Charlie has unwittingly fled into the Stone Age, with no way to help the boy or return to the present day. Or is there … ?
What follows is a wild, big-hearted adventure as Charlie and the Stone Age boy set out together to find what they have lost – their courage, their hope, their family and their way home.
Fans of Piers Torday, Geraldine McCaughrean and Stig of the Dump will love this wild, wise and heartfelt debut adventure.
“I think about how things aren’t always what they seem; how bad things can sometimes just happen and there’s nothing you can do about it, no matter how hard you try to forget…or how far you run.”
My eyes were wet with happy and sad tears at the same time as I flipped the last page. If there is one middle grade book that’s heartwarming yet brutally honest at the same time, it’s this one.
The Wild Way Home follows Charlie Merriam, our 12-year-old protagonist who has always longed for a younger sibling. When Charlie’s brother Dara is born with a malformed heart, Charlie runs off into the woods nearby only to realize that it’s not the same anymore! Guess why? Charlie has walked right into the Stone Age! Yes, you heard it right! I have read quite a few Middle Grade books that feature characters going away to far flung places, magical lands and hidden cities but this was the first time I read a book set partially in the Stone Age!
Charlie discovers a boy clad in deerskin lying face-down in the river with a wound on his forehead, and this is where the unforgettable friendship between the two begins. This book takes you on a wild journey of grit, survival and loss, at the base of which is the power of family and friendship. This is a tale full of action, adventure, tragedy and definitely packs a punch! Sophie hits you with the right feels and makes you want to jump into the page just you give these characters a warm hug!
I loved the fact that this book features a gender-neutral protagonist. Throughout the book, there is no mention of Charlie’s gender and it’s entirely up to the reader to assume Charlie as male, female or neither. The author emphasizes how gender is not at all a factor when it comes to friendship but the emotional bond between the two people is of utmost importance. The friendship between these two young jellybeans who are separated not by years or centuries, but millennia altogether, is something I will reminisce time and again.
Harby’s broken English was super cute and adorable! I found myself giggling every time I read his broken English. The phrase “make safe” will stick with me for long. This shows how friendship surpasses language barriers as well! Charlie’s confusion and struggle to interpret Harby’s words was fun to read!
It didn’t escape my notice how Sophie has managed to expertly layer the past over the present. Charlie is familiar yet unfamiliar with the forest at the same time. However, I would have loved to read more on the time travelling aspect as such. Since this is a character-driven story more than a plot-driven one, I wouldn’t hold it against the book. For a debut novel, this book speaks volumes about values, friendship, family and grief all with a gripping storyline!
Sophie doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of life. If there is one thing this book effortlessly manages to convey, it’s that life is not rainbows and unicorns all the time. Life is not a smooth road, it’s a gravel path full of stones, pot holes and multiple other obstacles and that we do not run away from it, we face it with our chests puffed out and our heads held high.
“Maybe that’s what spirit song is made of – it’s not made of words or even of music – it’s made of the spirits of us creatures who are brave enough to look each other square in the eye and say this is me and this is you and we’re both fierce and we’re both afraid. Equals. As one.”
If you’re in the mood for a tearjerker of a tale that also makes you smile and keeps you on the edge of the couch with anticipation, pick this one up! And if that outright gorgeous cover doesn’t tempt you enough, I don’t know what will!