I've heard a lot about Ross Welford's books: time travelling hamsters, invisible children, dogs who save the world. But now I can say I've read one. What took me so long? 'The 1000 Year Old Boy' is immense fun but also heartwarming, poignant and deeper than you'd think.
Alfie Monk is 1000 years old. Remarkable though this is, living for such a long time has its downfalls. Friends come and go. Suspicions are roused. Not to mention that never growing older than 11 makes it difficult to go to school and keep friends. But when a fire destroys Alfie's home, everything changes. Question is: can Alfie finally change himself?
The thing I loved most about this story were the characters. Ross Welford brings his characters vividly to life. Portrayed through two narrative viewpoints, the depth and difference of perspective between Alfie and Aidan is the beating heart of the book. Alfie's peculiar use of language is both charming and hilarious - I thought his text messages were so funny! But the other characters bring a great sense of realism too. I felt immersed in their ordinary lives, in contrast to Alfie's extraordinary existence. The story is believable because of this. Nothing ever quite works out how it should, just as life should be. All the twists and turns therefore had dramatic weight.
What is surprising is that instead of going into Alfie's 1000 year history (which I expected) the narrative focuses very much on the now, with Alfie's memories anchoring the conflicts and dilemmas. Because of this, the story is more about an outcast; someone who can't fit in at school. Alfie is a refugee of his own history; and this gives the story contemporary heft and relevance.
I will definitely be reading more from Ross Welford soon. I like the sound of time travelling hamsters, especially!