The Space We're In - Katya Balen

The Space We're In - Katya Balen

'The Space We're In' by Katya Balen, is by far one of the most moving middle grade books that I've read in many years. It is beautifully written and I'm not ashamed to say that it made me cry several times.

The story is written from the ten year old Frank's point of view. He loves cracking codes and hanging out with his friends, playing football. He would do anything just to have a normal life - like he had before:

It used to be different before Mum and Dad had Max. I didn't have the same swoopy tummy anxiety and knotty worry and burning shame before he arrived.

But Frank's little brother Max is different to other brothers and because of this, the whole family has to adjust. It makes Frank confused, angry and resentful, no matter how hard he tries to understand and relate to his brother. There's a wonderful description of how Mum explains the situation to Frank:

Mum says Max sees and feels the world differently to me and to her and to Dad and to Jaimie and to Ahmed and to Granny M and it's like he's wearing different glasses that filter things like sounds and light and colour so that they stream into his brain in a way that we don't understand. And all I could think about was The Wizard of Oz and the Emerald City and taking off the greenglass glasses to see that everything was different colours after all and was Max in Oz or was I?

But a later tragedy means that the family have even bigger feelings to deal with, and Frank is forced to grow up quickly and try his utmost to connect with Max.

There are some beautiful portrayals of family love in the story linked to the cosmos, coding and the idea that we are all intrinsically connected. I would wholeheartedly recommend this story to both middle grade readers and adults.