Reviewed by Lucy Middlemass
Up, Back, and Away
Up, Back, and Away explores class, culture and growing up through the experiences of Miles McTavish, a fifteen year old Texan boy who travels from 2012 America to England in 1928 on an ancient bicycle. Tasked with finding a girl and a secret, Miles discovers self-reliance, ingenuity and real friendship.
There is real pleasure in reading about Miles’ surprise at English life between the wars, from the separate taps over the sink to what they call their meals. When Miles takes a position at the big house, it’s equally enjoyable to find out about the importance of social positions, the differences between the sexes and family secrets.
This is perfectly pitched for a Young Adult audience, especially one interested in history. The past is presented through Miles’ experience, never becoming dry or too detailed. There are snatches of real loveliness, such as the moment a character listens to Miles’ stowaway iPod and comments that it`s, “Like an orchestra in a book of matches.”
Miles himself is believably fifteen, initially filled with doubt and curiosity. His journey, covering both time and distance, forces him to make difficult choices, but he’s motivated by kindness and wanting to do the right thing. He’s smart, courageous and occasionally cheeky.
The story has plenty of appeal for an older audience too, with various smaller plots and themes running through it. Highly recommended.