By Sarah Hammond
Published by Oxford
Ever since a childhood accident, Mikey Baxter hasn't been like other children. He is much slower, sees things in different ways and is socially awkward. Others see Mikey as damaged, but his parents see him as different and special. An only child, Mikey is loved and protected.
Since the accident, which his mum and dad never speak of, Mikey has had a strange gift that worries and frightens him. He has the ability to see things that have happened in the past as if they are happening right now. He calls this "the Backwards", and he never knows when it is going to happen. Mikey has enough difficulty as it is sorting out the world around him without bits of the past swimming around inside his head and confusing him.
Mrs Baxter has a close relationship with her son, but she has problems of her own. Dad has vanished, and Mikey has heard that he is in prison. Mum is always crying these days and is obviously struggling to cope with things that Mikey doesn't understand. Life would be much easier if the Backwards would just stop interrupting him. It muddles up his mind and messes up his relationships with other people.
Reading the blurb on the back of Sarah Hammond's debut young adult novel, The Night Sky in My Head, it would be easy to dismiss it as just another teen-with-problems piece of fiction. But this intelligent, exciting and engaging book is much more than that.
At the centre of Hammond's plot are two intriguing mysteries. What exactly was Mikey's accident, and why is his dad in jail? Hammond's plot doesn't disappoint as her story draws to its dramatic climax.
Mikey tells his own story and is a good narrator. The reader really gets to know him and appreciate his individual way of seeing the world.
There are shades of Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in Mikey's character, and this is no bad thing.
Like Christopher, Mikey finds himself faced with a murder that he has to solve so that he can get at the truth of what is troubling him. Don't expect any easy answers at the end of this confident and intriguing story. Hammond doesn't pull a rabbit out of a hat and destroy the tension and interest she has so carefully built up.
Full of light and dark, hate and friendship, reality and mystery, this unexpected treat will stay with the reader long after Mikey gets closure on things he has been trying so long to accept and understand.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com