North of Nowhere we meet Mia, who has been dragged away from her friends and down to the sleepy fishing village of Porthaven to help out her gran after her grandad goes missing. She’s bored, she’s lonely, and she doesn’t understand why her Gran has to be so shut off about things. Soon, though, she finds occupation playing with the dog on the beach, makes tentative friends with ‘D’, communicating in writing through the pages of D’s diary, and meets Peter, who’s on a fishing holiday. But then things start to get mysterious: first D fails to turn up for their arranged meeting, then Mia starts to get some funny looks when she mentions visiting the local island where D lives, and then Peter disappears.
This is a really enjoyable read from Cornish-based author Liz Kessler. Porthaven is never specifically referenced as being a Cornish village, but it’s as good as with the name and setting that Kessler has given it. And it’s a rather well-engineered timeslip novel too - I figured out what was going on relatively early in the story, but had to keep reading to find out how everything would work out in the end, and worked out rather nicely it did too. There are little flashback inserts to help entice the reader into the mystery, and everything unfolds very naturally.
I do have a couple of small niggles that my adult brain couldn’t help wondering about whilst I was reading... (i) why Mia isn’t more upset about the disappearance of her grandfather in the first place (and why more isn’t done about it by her mother and grandmother); (ii) why Mia and Peter’s sister don’t tell the adults when they find clues leading to Peter’s disappearance (surely in a real life situation this would be a major issue in a police investigation); and (iii) the ease with which both Mia and Peter’s families accept the outcome and their new reality. However, the addition of detail required by the author to flesh these things out would probably have taken away from the main flow of the story and it is, after all, only a story. And a story with time travel in it too, so I mustn’t get too nitpicky!
Overall, North of Nowhere is a nice little puzzle for young minds to immerse themselves in, and an adventure worthy of any Enid Blyton fan. I especially enjoyed the timeslip aspect of the story and the way several of the different characters got to experience it rather than just witnessing the outcome. I will definitely be picking up more of Liz Kessler’s books in the future.