Cover Image: The Upper World

The Upper World

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Member Reviews

Two teenageers are separated in time by 15 years. Esso discovers he can travel in time and is desperate to prevent a tragedy. To do that he travels to the future and 'tutors' 15 year old Rhia explaining time travel in great detail. Even before I had researched the author, I thought that Fadugba must be a science teacher as time travel is explained in a very believable way. The science is intriguing as the relationship between Esso and Rhia.

The story is set in South London, with lots of street language - even that has a time travel element with Rhia finding Esso's language outdated. That said, the street language may put some people off if it is not in their regular experience.

However, I'm sure this will appeal to teens in my locale and will be adding it to our library shopping list.
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This was a four star most of the way but then the ending was a massive let down. It was doing a good job of explaining intense physics but then felt like it abandoned it all?
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Such an interesting novel! I live in Peckham and it was a real treat to read something that focused so squarely on its streets and people. YA is rarely this descriptive, particularly sci-fi YA, but the story of Esso kept me captivated and I read the book all in one go. Would recommend and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher!
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Thought this was so unique and well done and I really  loved the realism of the London setting. Found myself preferring the chapters from Esso's perspective more than Rhia's but overall a brilliant and gripping YA read
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I read somewhere that Femi Fadugba wanted to create a story for the nerds and the mandem, and thus, The Upper World was born. And I personally think he very much succeeded! 

I sort of went into this novel a bit blind. I saw it was about time travel and set in Peckham and decided to try it out. It only hit me after I was approved that this novel would probably have in-depth explanations about physic terms... 

Femi Fadugba took two teens and somehow managed to draw on some difficult conversations within the Physics world to do with energy and light. He took one of the most confusing equations and made it easy to understand. Not only that, he drew on themes of racism, love, fear, betrayal and gang culture to do so!

We have to talk about the use of Black British slang. I personally really liked it because it made the book ten times more relatable to me. It’s fast paced and hard hitting. There’s diagrams and very simple explanations of physics terms I could never get my head around. Honestly, I needed Mr Fadugba as my Physics teacher at school because he taught me more about physics than my secondary school teacher ever could. 

The reader is taken on such a journey with both characters into this discussion of time! Both Esso and Rhia were phenomenal characters and I enjoyed both their narratives equally. 

Overall, I felt this was astounding debut novel by Femi Fadugba and I CANNOT WAIT to see the movie adaption with the phenomenal, Daniel Kaluuya! I can’t wait to see what he writes next!

Thank you so much to @netgalleyUK and Penguin Random House for the e-Arc!
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The Upper World by Femi Fadugba is about teenager Esso living in Peckham who after an accident finds that he sees time differently than he used to. The story is also about Rhia, who's life is affected by the acts of Esso. I enjoyed this book more than I expected. I loved the way that physics was explained in a way that was easy to understand and I found that I was more invested in the characters that I thought. The story gave a really good depiction of what life can be like for young men caught in a downward spiral of violence and the repercussions it can have on society. A really good, modern story with difficult topics explored. I look forward to what comes next from this author.
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Loved this book can't wait for the sequel next year. I originally got a early copy of the book on netgalley but with it taking me longer to read (work long nights) I ended up buying a copy from my local waterstones so that I can re read it whenever I want (more than likely just before the sequel next year)
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I would like to thank Netgalley for providing me the eArc of this book in exchange for a honest review. 

This review is a generic one as I'll use it for the books I am not leaving a review for. 

The reasons I did not leave a review is as follows:
- I did not like the book or couldn't get into because of the writing style, didn't like the plot/setting or MC was annoying. 
- Love triangles, I loathe them. And there is at least one book I won't be reading because of this. 
- Plot was so agonisingly slow. 
- If the approved book is second book in the series it means that I didn't like or dnfed the first one thus won't be reading the second one. 
- Or there was a technical issue and couldn't download the book or it was achieved before I could download. 

And as I like to say life is too short to do things you do not enjoy and since reading books is a for of escapisim I'll hold on to that thought. 

I don't want to disrespect the author or the publishing company. The reason I'm doing it to improve my statistics on this forum and Netgalley does not accept the fact that I won't be leaving a feedback due to dnf.
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I found this such a good book, so very different and very clever. It didn’t take me very long to read this one and having read the other reviews we all seem to be in agreement that it was a rollercoaster ride of a read. My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.
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(Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for an eARC in exchange for an honest review)

I don't read a lot of science fiction so i went into this book not really knowing what to expect but i ended up really enjoying it! I loved the main characters Esso and Rhia, they where both so well written. The relationship between Rhia and Olivia (her foster sister) was one of my favourites in the book. They had a really nice sisterly bond and i especially liked the little signals they had invented to talk to each other behind their foster parents backs. It was just a fun thing that i thought showed the bond they had. 

This book is told between the two POVs of Esso and Rhia with a 15 year difference between the two which i thought would be confusing with the constant time jumps but it wasn't in the slightest. I also had a love/hate relationship with how each chapter ends on a cliffhanger as you have to wait until that characters next POV to find out what happens. However, this does mean that it was a fast paced read and had me hooked the entire time as well as there never being a dull moment. 

As i mentioned, this is a sci-fi and there is definitely a big focus on math and physics. I've never been very good at these subjects so whilst i didn't understand all of the time/space science-y stuff, it was explained in ways so that i could still follow along with the book and understand what was happening and why.

My only fault with this book was that the conclusion of the story confused me slightly and felt a little rushed. Also I would have loved the last chapter to be a little longer and explain things a bit more but there is going to be a book 2 so I reckon any questions I have will be cleared up at the start of that. 

Overall, The Upper World is a really good sci-fi novel with fantastic characters that will have you hooked the entire time. This book left me questioning everything i know about time and space and i can definitely see why it's becoming a movie.
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I really enjoyed this book, in contrast to my middle of the road rating, but despite my enjoyment there was something missing throughout. The plot is okay, the characters are also okay and the progression of the events within are alright too. The real selling point for this book actually fell within the audio book, and for that reason I'm so glad I read and listened to this story in both formats. The narrators for Esso and Rhia, the two protagonists whose world's collide with startling impact, are expertly selected for the audio book and were the predominant reason I loved this story. 

Essentially this is an exploration of how possible time travel might be. The author leaves it up to you in some part to decide how believable you think their explanations are, but Esso and Rhia have to accept its real and work together to stop a tragic event from having ever happened. 

It's difficult to become invested in the story because neither the plot or the characters leap off the page - they only do this when given narrative voices through the audiobook. I very rarely listen to audiobooks, feeling most often like I prefer to attribute voices to characters myself, so I'd probably be the last person to suggest that's the best format to enjoy a book, but this book should have solely been an audiobook because the dialogue absolutely needs to be heard, rather than read, to appreciate the author's point of view. There is a standout representation of character dialect, nuance of behaviour and perhaps most importantly their opinions via the tone of voice. Usually I find narrators distracting, but the two in this book were phenomenal and made me believe I was listening to them truly tell their stories.

A great addition the genre, but lost without the audiobook.

ARC of both text and audiobook provided from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Esso is a teen growing up in Peckham, The Endz, in our current time. 

Rhia is a teen growing up in The Endz sixteen years in the future. 

Their fates are tied by a single bullet, a single moment. 

And a race against time becomes a race for their futures. 


I loved The Upper World! It was an absolutely unputdownable THRILLING ride. I am really not that into reading thrillers but when I read the blurb and it promised to be a mix of time travel and a thriller... I was curious. Plus, the author, Femi Fadugba, is a Physicist which made me even more curious to read! 

I really enjoyed the general gritty London feel of this, Esso's moments were so believable and so atmospheric I felt like I was there. I am a Londoner born and bred and spent my late teens to early 20s in South East London and reading this... I FELT like I was there, I FELT Esso's moments, I recognised the places he talked about and I felt his feelings. I can't praise Fadugba's atmospheric writing enough! 

Physics has not ever been my forte, but the way things were explained in The Upper World meant that I never felt like I was on the backfoot, things were always explained in such clear ways that it always made sense (in the context of the book!)

Then there was Esso himself. I loved him. He was a bit of an idiot in moments but he tried so hard to be good. He was written so well, he could have been one of my brothers. I worried for him and feared the consequences of his actions but I always understood where he was coming from. His growth as teen was one of my favourite parts of this book. And Rhia, was just gorgeously written. An incredibly smart orphan who is traumatised by her past and trying to guarantee her future, I really wanted to just give her a hug and fix everything. Despite what the world throws her way she always found a way to make things right. 

Please just read this and give Esso and Rhia some hugs. They really need it. 

#theupperworld #netgalley
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The writing in this book is great. The way the author captured the characters voice is amazing, you can hear the characters as you read it. The world creation is great too.
But, it all went a little over my head and I struggled to plod through.
If you're really into scifi then grab this book for a gritty tale.
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This novel feels like a book of multiple parts which unfortunately don't always succeed in fitting together. Firstly there is the duality of narrators - Esso and Rhia; then the duality of 'historical period' offering a 15 year difference in perspective; and finally the duality of the real world versus the titular upper world. What starts out as a stereotypical London based, gang focussed lens on young black masculinity, segues into a discussion of astrophysics complete with equations and references the philosophical musings of Esso's late father. Perhaps this will appeal to those with an interest in physics and time travel, but I found myself switching off during the lengthy discussions of scientific theory. Fadugba is clearly a talented artist and a passionate advocate for his scientific field...I wonder if the Netflix adaptation will illuminate the narrative more fully and enhance my comprehension?
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3/5 stars

The Upper World tells the story of Esso, who discovers that he can see visions of the future, and Rhia, a generation later, who is trying to find out more about her absent parents.

This book was one of my most anticipated books of the year, as I absolutely love time travel books  –– it's a favourite trope of mine. However, I think that maybe the reason I didn't love this book was due to personal preference, and I've seen nothing but praise for this book so maybe I am an outlier.

I think the first barrier for this book is that I really didn't get on with the writing style. It is definitely not poorly written, I just didn't get on with it. The second is that the Upper World is told with two perspectives, Rhia's and Esso's, and I struggled to distinguish between the voices of these two, which made it hard for me to root for any of the characters. This may just be me, though, as I have seen other reviews that disagree. The final barrier I had with it was the fact that the plot just went over my head. This is perhaps the book's fault with the world building not working for me, but I think it was a case of the words just not going into my brain for some reason. Like I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of the reviews disagree with me.

Obviously I liked the general premise of the book, and I liked the passages of the book that were to do with physics. I found that quite interesting, but I understand that some of it probably will confuse people. The plot itself did confuse me a little.

Overall, I would recommend as I'm sure lots of people will like it. It feels like a book that perhaps if I read it at a different time I would enjoy it more. However, I don't think I will pick up any more books in this series, but don't let me put you off from picking this up.
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The Upper World is a brilliantly fast paced debut YA novel from Femi Fadugba that interweaves the gritty realities of London life with the theory of time travel. Vividly told through dual perspectives and set in Peckham, South London, we meet Esso and Rhia who instantly drew me into their lives. I really connected to Esso, who in present day is having a hard time balancing the normal difficulties of life as a teenage boy, on top of the pressures of street rivalries. Rhia 15 years in the future is a rising football star living in the foster care system. She is looking for any clues to what happened to her parents and when she meets her new physics tutor, they may both have the answers the other is searching for. 

So many aspects of this book are moving and thought provoking, I found myself shaking my head in sadness at the struggles and obstacles that are very much a part of life growing up in inner cities. A wonderful job was done to highlight real references mixed into the fiction of the story. The crescendo pacing was exactly what was needed and boy did it all lead up to a dramatic yet heart wrenching finish.  

Packed full of scientific logic and physicists theories which were fairly easy to understand and very educational, I would have loved reading this book while I was at school, not only does it fantastically portray British street culture, it also would have really give me representation and motivation to embrace science in a completely new way. I hope schools around the UK have The Upper World stocked in their libraries. 

Now I listen to a lot of audiobooks and this one while perfectly narrated by Tom Moutchi and Weruche Opia had instrumental music scattered throughout. It mostly added to the drama and tension building, but personally I found it at times distracting particularly in several of Rhia's chapters. However, if you have the chance to listen to the audio version, do it! Especially if you are not from London or used to the type of British vernacular that was spoken by the characters. The language was so descriptive that it is no wonder that The Upper World got picked up to be adapted into a Netflix film, staring Oscar winning actor Daniel Kaluuya, before the book was even published!  

I'm excited to see what the future brings for Fadugba, I hear a sequel is in the works, one that focuses on "quantum mechanics and the multiverse". The idea of a Peckham based multiverse is amazing news to my sci-fi loving self! 

Thank you to Penguin Random Children' UK sand NetGalley for copies of the eARC and audiobook in exchange for my honest review. 


TW: violence, mental health, death
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Thank you to @netgalley and @penguinrandomhouse for my advanced reader copy of this YA Sci Fi novel by @femifadugba 

Synopsis: There is a moment in time we'd all like to travel back to and there is one particular moment that Esso and Rhia would love to change if they could. This story shows a dual timeline that connects the characters: original Esso is at the t point and Rhia meets Dr Esso, fifteen years in the future as he tutors her in physics and somehow has a photo of her mother in his bag. How are they connected? What does the Upper World mean for their connected past, present and future? How can they access this Upper World, first mentioned by Socrates?

Review: This was epic! I grew up not too far from this side of London and have friends living there still, so it was great to see parts mentioned. The vernacular is very particular and familiar but as time has gone on in the novel, the words are no longer relevant, Esso is considered out of the loop which made for a fun read. There were many funny moments actually, but the pathos of the painful teenage years where you long to be relevant and important to people; where you crush hard and are desperate to belong, that time when you long to find a place for yoursel -  all of this was written about so well in this novel about time travel. I learnt a lot about the physics of light and time itself, a lot about the psychology of being young and how our futures are shaped by circumstances out of our control as well as those we can influence.

This was a fun read and I'm already looking forward to this when it comes to Netflix!
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This is not your average Sci-fi novel!

The best reason that I can give for why I think that this new sci-fi YA novel will be a huge hit is that it’s probably too cool for this forty-something teacher. There is talk of drill (I asked my 12-year-old), gangs, youth culture and lots of teenage concerns. However, there is also a load of physics involved, and it’s all explained in a really accessible way – it takes what kids will have learnt about in school and extrapolates it to explain how time travel is apparently possible.

In terms of plot, there are two really strong stories here which quickly merge together once you’ve got thoroughly immersed in each of them. There is plenty of grit, tears and pain in the lives of both Rhia and Esso, who are both likeable and misunderstood, multidimensional characters – by the end of the novel, you’re really rooting for them both to succeed.

I’ve got a really reluctant reader at home, but I loved this ARC so much that I’ve pre-ordered him a physical copy. I’ve also put it on my wish list for the school library, and I really believe that teenage boys in particular will love this.

I don’t normally assign a rating to my reviews, but I’m going to give this one an easy 5 out of 5!
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This is a very strange yet intriguing book.

Like most time-travel novels I've read in the past, I expected this one to be action-packed, thrilling and very fast-paced. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book is unlike anything I've ever read! 

We follow two timelines and two characters. Esso is a teenager in Peckham, juggling school, gang drama, his mum's expectations and his feelings for the girl he loves. But when a freak accident leads him to see 'the upper world', everything changes. The second POV is Rhia, who lives with her foster family fifteen years in the future. She is an upcoming football prodigy who never knew her birth mother and is trying to survive through each day. When Esso and Rhia's paths collide… they discover more about themselves than they ever knew.

I loved the fact this book combined physics with such a thrilling concept. This book is peppered with physics explanations and diagrams, that make it such a fun read, but also doesn't make you scratch your head in confusion. The characters were much more central to the story than the plot itself. This was unexpected, but I really liked how I fell in love with both characters. Esso and Rhia were fleshed out so well- although we read their stories fifteen years apart, we still learn a lot about their worlds and how they deal with their own relationships.

The writing was really great. It was easy to read and kept me hooked! As this book is set in London, there is a lot of colloquial language, which I really loved and stood out the most in this book for me. As someone who's lived their whole life here, I understood it and it made this story even more relatable. But for someone not familiar with it, it can take a couple of chapters to get used to. The author wrote this book in such a compelling way, that you keep wanting to know what happens next!

The ending was really strange for me. I still don't know how to feel about it, but it made sense in a way that it rounds off the story well. It's almost a bittersweet ending for our two characters. Overall, this is a really gripping read, and I would highly recommend it if you're looking for something fresh that will keep you intrigued!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an e-arc!
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The premise of the story was very interesting.  We have two characters intrinsically linked by an event that Esso is desperate to prevent. While this event has led to Rhia 15 years later needing this event to have been stopped.  At the same time Esso is introduced through a book left by his dad, to the upper world.  This leads him to not only believe he can see the future but because he can see it that he can change it.
The story is set in London in both present day and 15 years in the future.  Esso is caught up in a world of rival gangs, violence and little hope for the future.  While Rhia 15 years on has been in and out of foster homes and struggles to believe that she can achieve as she feels things always go wrong.
The story is well told with an interesting plot.
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