What the World Doesn’t See – Mel Darbon
What the World Doesn’t See is a book which explores grief, family and love and encourages readers to get to know people before they make judgements. In the author’s notes, Darbon reveals that the character of Jake is based on her own brother, and that the book was written to give him a voice he didn’t have for himself. The book is written with love and tenderness.
Maudie and Jake’s Mum has been struggling with grief since the death of their father, so much so that one day, they wake to find she’s disappeared. Maudie is heartbroken, as she believed she’d been helping her Mum, by being the perfect sister, daughter and student. She feels guilty that she didn’t recognise that her Mum needed more help. She is further crushed when their aunt intervenes and sends her younger brother into temporary foster care, completely breaking up her family. She decides to take matters into her own hands, by kidnapping Jake and travelling to Cornwall in an effort to force her Mum out of hiding and reunite the family.
The story is written in the dual narrative style so common in YA books at the moment. In truth, I’ve grown a bit tired of this format of late but in this case, I feel it’s entirely necessary. I loved Jake’s chapters. Whilst Maudie’s chapters drive the story forward, we read how Jake feels during these events in his own voice. Jake has severe autism and he is funny, caring and capable. Jake’s autism makes life harder for both of them on their journey and we are given an insight into the uncivil and uncaring reactions some people face in their daily lives. We also meet many characters who are understanding and helpful and after reading this book, hopefully there will be many more.
It’s a beautiful tribute to the author’s brother and the book deserves a wide readership.
Young Adult – available for Years 9 and above and Years 7 & 8 with parental permission.