Why I Went Back by James Clammer was quite enjoyable but not what I was expecting

Why I Went BackTitle: Why I Went Back
Series: N/A
Author: James Clammer
Genre: Middle-Grade, Urban Fantasy
Publication: April 7th 2016, Andersen Press
Pages: 288 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to LoveReading4Kids and Andersen Press for sending me this book to review! This has in no way affected my review.
Rating: 3.5/5 Cupcakes!
Aidan needs his bike to deliver all the mail his postman dad’s been hoarding since his mum was sectioned. But his bike’s just been stolen.In the early morning, Aidan chases after the thieves, hellbent on getting it back. When he reaches the abandoned factory where they’ve stashed his bike, he has moments to grab it and escape. But he finds more than just stolen goods. There’s a mysterious prisoner chained to the floor. This is the story of why Aidan goes back.Recalling Alan Garner and Susan Cooper, Why I Went Back is a dark tale of magic, myth and undelivered mail. 

When I was offered a chance to review this book, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. It sounded like a story that would be rich in magic and myth - just what I was looking for. Even though it wasn't quite what I was expecting, I loved the voice of the main character, as well as the writing and although it's not a new favorite, it is a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

Why I Went Back is centered around a fourteen year old boy called Aidan. A boy whose mother has been sectioned due to her battle with the voices inside of her head, a father that is lost within the labyrinth of his depression and a boy who has to wake up when the stars are still glinting above in order to supply mail to the inhabitants of his village that his father can't bring himself to deliver. When our feisty, lovable protagonist is about to start his early morning rounds of delivering mail, he spies two male figures stealing his bike - the bike he desperately needs in order to preserve his father's job - and he immediately sets off after them. However, when he arrives at the location where the thieves have hidden his bike, he stumbles upon something more sinister than he could have imagined. Within the confines of the warehouse lies a prisoner among dusty sheets, shackled and emaciated - Aidan wants nothing to do with the terrible things lurking in the shadows of the warehouse. However, he knows he has to do something - especially when the prisoner hints at being able to quiet the voices that live inside his mother's head. Aidan knows he needs to get away as far as possible from the sickening people inflicting this damage upon another but Aidan knows he has to help, he has to free the prisoner...and perhaps have a chance at freeing his mother too. This is Aidan's story of why he went back.

This is going to be one of those books that is incredibly hard to review, because although there were some aspects I loved there were quite a few things that stopped me from shrieking about my love for this book.

The one thing I really, really loved about this book was Aidan. I enjoyed the way the author portrayed him and the way the author introduced him. We're informed about his dismal home situation and we're informed about how hard he works at trying to prevent his father from losing the job that he's not actually doing, how difficult he's finding the hospitalisation of his mother, so from the very beginning of the book I found myself rooting for Aidan. I liked him from the first page. His direct way of speaking and the way he spoke to the reader, he's a likable character. He was misguided and struggling to find himself at times and because of that he made some bad decisions and whenever that happened I would inwardly groan because I just really wanted him to make the right choices in life. Aidan is a character can't help but root for. He also had excellent character development, he went from being a boy who was cynical, hopeless and afraid to a boy who was kinder and more hopeful and just better. Despite his awful situation that will have tears gathering in your eyes

Another character I loved was Daniel, a boy who attends Aidan's school, one who Aidan sometimes takes his hurt out on. Aidan manages to get Daniel involved in the mystery enshrouding the prisoner and over the course of the novel, the two boys strike up something like a friendship. Like I previously stated, I adore Daniel. He's such a kind-hearted, genuine, good person and despite the way Aidan treated him in the beginning of the novel, he still remained kind, he still treated Aidan with respect. I loved his character. I also liked how this book showed the wonderful, positive impact a kind heart can have on someone who is struggling in this journey called life.

Then there was Haxforth, the mysterious stranger chained in the warehouse. Haxforth was a character that I thought really needed more development. He didn't feel three dimensional and I didn't really form any kind of connection to him and I think it's important that the reader does form a bond with him. There's not much I can say about him as he was just there really and I never felt like I knew him. Perhaps that was to add to the magical atmosphere surrounding him but I just didn't form an emotional attachment to him. Which brings me to my next point:

I was quite disappointed with where this novel went in terms of Haxforth and magic. I enjoyed the first half and I was intrigued the majority of the way through but I felt the ending was quite disappointing and the plot of this book was anticlimactic in general. There weren't plot twists or a confrontation between the main character and the antagonists, there was just a lack of important things happening. I'm still confused about this, surely there would have been a dispute between Aidan and Christy? I was left scratching my head once I'd finished this book as I can't believe that Aidan never had a run in with the people involved with Haxforth's imprisonment? It just didn't seem realistic enough and I feel like there should have been a resolved conclusion even though there was nothing to conclude but it feels like there should have been...does that even make sense? There wasn't anything that made me feel shocked or an event that implanted a fierce desire to speed through the pages. The blurb promised magic and myth however it didn't deliver that. We're told where Haxforth is from (which became quite obvious at a certain point in the novel) and there's about two or three pages of something otherworldly in this book but that's it. I felt cheated in some sense as there wasn't an epic revelation or scenes of magic and myth and even the myth that was mentioned wasn't explained properly and I was quite flummoxed as to how this was meant to add anything to the story. The majority of contemporary setting with the few scenes of magic weren't connected seamlessly together which made the contents of the book seem to be two wrong-fitting puzzle pieces.

I did, however, like that this book was diverse in the sense that it featured mental illness and showed the turmoil that people with mental illness experience as well as the damaging effect it can have on the victim's family. I also loved the writing in this book. I adored the way the author wrote, as if Aidan was speaking to us, I loved the insightful quotes and I loved how smoothly the writing flowed. 

Why I Went Back was a novel that I was expecting to be filled with magic and enchantment, however, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Despite that, I loved the cast of characters who were authentic and complex, I loved the message of hope infused throughout this book, the message that no matter how tumultuous life can get, things can and will improve. The writing in this book was gorgeous. It was conversational, inviting and had a delectable quality to it. Why I Went Back has fragments of fantasy and reality collide to bring this original tale of hope and freedom.

I give it: 3.5 CUPCAKES!

- Mentions of schizophrenia
- Thugs abusing another human via kicking etc

- About two scenes of violence. Not too graphic
- Blasphemy used a couple of times

'"You're acting like a peasant," he said, in a resigned sort of way. "A peasant is stupid. He does the same bad job with the same bad tools year after year and he wonders why life never gets any better."'
"People are like that in general, you never know what they're thinking, not deep in their own invincible hearts."
"We could stand there forever puzzling out the past, but how clever was it really when there was the small matter of the future to think of?"
"But you can't always do What If. There are times when What If gets you precisely nowhere."
"...somehow I didn't feel afraid any more about all those tomorrows."