It was a game of hide and seek that got old after five minutes, alarming after an hour, and the scariest thing that had ever happened to any of us after that.
Aidan couldn’t be found.
Lucas’ older brother, Aidan, disappeared without a trace for six days. Now he’s returned home and the story he tells about the time he was missing seems too strange to be true.
Where were you?
Nobody’s going to believe me.
I’ll believe you.
I don’t think you can.
I loved the interactions between the brothers as they navigated the suspicion surrounding Aidan’s story and the people who felt they deserved an explanation because they’d helped search for him. Lucas’ initial disbelief and his subsequent wavering between thinking Aidan’s story is impossible and wondering if it actually could be true was realistic, especially given Aidan’s propensity for telling his younger brother some far-fetched things in the past.
I liked Lucas, especially appreciating how much he wanted to believe what his brother was telling him and doing his best to protect him. I thought it was particularly appropriate that Lucas was studying Roanoke at school during the time immediately after Aidan’s return.
My favourite character was Aunt Brandi, whose wisdom and compassion made me wish she was my Aunt. I definitely wanted to spend more time with her. She managed to snag the best lines. I loved this one:
“It stretches credibility – but life stretches credibility all the time, to the point that credibility doesn’t have much credibility left, you know?”
I really wanted to learn more about the place Aidan spent his time while he was missing. Previous books I’ve read that feature portals spend a significant amount of time world building and oftentimes I’ve been able to travel to far flung worlds with the main character. But that’s not what this book is about; Aidan’s story is about the after.
Aidan was no longer missing, but now it was like the answers to his disappearance were missing instead.
What happens when you return from a place that others find unbelievable? How will your family, friends and the wider community respond to you? How will you adapt once again to this world, knowing you can’t return to the one you’ve so recently lived in? How do you do this life after experiencing another?
The entire time I was reading I kept thinking this is the perfect gateway book to Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. As Aidan attempted to reacclimate himself to his life at home, I found myself wanting to refer him to Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, a place where his experience would be believed and the complicated feelings he had about his return validated.
I only had a couple of nitpicks, but none of them prevented me from loving this book. While Lucas and Aidan’s relationship was both endearing and believable, they tended to speak as though they were older than 11 and 12. There was never any explanation provided for why Aidan described the maddoxes differently throughout the book.
While I understood his reasons for doing so, I was disappointed when Lucas made a decision on Aidan’s behalf towards the end of the book. I’d love to say more, but spoilers. I wanted Aidan to make that decision for himself, though.
Food I craved while reading: cinnamon rolls.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Text Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Aidan disappeared for six days. Six agonising days of searches and police and questions and constant vigils. Then, just as suddenly as he vanished, Aidan reappears. Where has he been? The story he tells is simply … impossible. But it’s the story Aidan is sticking to.
His brother, Lucas, wants to believe him. But Lucas is aware of what other people, including their parents, are saying: that Aidan is making it all up to disguise the fact that he ran away.
When the kids in school hear Aidan’s story, they taunt him. But still Aidan clings to his story. And as he becomes more of an outcast, Lucas becomes more and more concerned. Being on Aidan’s side would mean believing in the impossible. But how can you believe in the impossible when everything and everybody is telling you not to?