Upper World
by Fadugba, Femi

When Dr. Esso arrives in her world in need of her help to unravel a tragedy that happened 15 years before, Rhia discovers a connection not only to her own past but to a future worth fighting for. 50,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook.

Hardcore math-and-physics-based time-travel theories intersect with gang violence in South London's Peckham neighborhood in this intense debut novel. Esso struggles to stay distant from the gangs that plague his high school. When he's hit by a car, he's briefly transported to a dark wasteland where he accesses visions of his past and future. Esso recognizes this as a place his father called the Upper World. Alternating chapters follow Rhia, a teenage soccer player in foster care living 15 years in the future, whose new tutor is Esso. Adult Esso is convinced that Rhia can help him get back to the Upper World and return to a crucial moment in his past when nearly everyone he cared about died in a hail of bullets. He also has a mysterious connection to Rhia's mother. The language in this book is heavily laced with slang and British phrasings but is comprehensible in context. The science is complex, but the central, emotional stakes are universal: Can we change the past? Dare we hope for a better future? Grades 9-12. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Dual timelines explore physics, choices, and time travel. Sixteen-year-old Esso Adenon is trying to survive school in South London, but he keeps getting into trouble. Most recently, he was in the wrong place at the worst time, when a classmate's brother who goes by the name Bloodshed was attacked by some of Esso's gang member friends. In keeping with his nickname, Bloodshed now seeks violent revenge against them, Esso included. After a near-death experience, Esso finds himself caught in the Upper World, a metaphysical realm where he can catch glimpses of the future. Fifteen years later, a young soccer player named Rhia needs help with math and physics-and along comes a grown Dr. Esso to be her tutor; he is also someone who may know the truth about Rhia's biological mother. These timelines intersect as Esso and Rhia together try to stop a tragedy. Fadugba's debut dazzles, particularly when it comes to dialogue-the London slang flows with ease, adding to the sense of place. Themes of code-switching, found families, and loss resonate strongly as well. The novel includes diagrams and scientific explanations for the physics that drives the story. Much of the cast is Black, including Esso, whose family is from Benin, and Rhia, who is living in foster care. A riveting thriller that creatively incorporates scientific elements. (math and physics information) (Thriller. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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