All Sorts of Possible by Rupert Wallis (YA)

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Reviewed by Annabel

I saw a repeat of a Horizon TV programme all about sinkholes the other month. Geology professor Ian Stewart was in Florida, which is the sinkhole capital of the world. He was exploring the phenomenon and meeting people whose lives had been affected, sometimes tragically, by their opening up next to or under their houses. Sinkholes are generally caused by water wearing away soluble bedrock and the ground above giving way. Drier summers and wetter winters are adding to the problem, and the UK’s chalklands in particular are not immune, with several having appeared in recent years – a new one appeared in Manchester just a few days ago.

I’m telling you this because All Sorts of Possible begins with a sinkhole:

When the sinkhole opened, there was no time to brake or turn the wheel, and the old green Land Rover was snatched off the dirt road over the smoking rim.

The teenage boy in the passenger seat blinked as blue sky was ripped from the windscreen and trees launched themselves like rockets.

He was a raggedy doll thrown forward as the car was swallowed down into the world.

Daniel survives falling into the sinkhole, but on getting out of the car to help his injured father, falls further ending up in the water at the bottom with no way out except to follow the water. After tumbling down a waterfall he believes he’s trapped in the underground caverns. He scratches the word ‘Help’ onto the cave wall. ‘Please,’ he says – and finds the way out.

He is the miracle boy – the one who survived. His father though, is in an induced coma, he may not recover. Daniel feels guilty, he’d been arguing with his dad when the accident happened.

He sat by his father’s bed in his hospital dressing gown, then closed his eyes and asked for another miracle. Over and over he repeated it inside his head, like a prayer, or a piece of magic that would only work if he really believed in it, trying to remember exactly how he had asked for help underground.

This is where the novel takes a rather different tack. A stranger, Lawson, enters his father’s room and tells Daniel that he has a talent, that he and Daniel can work together to make ‘the fit’. He makes ‘a golden spot of heat’ appear in Daniel’s chest, ‘ticklish, not uncomfortable or painful, but odd…’.

Daniel is rescued by the arrival of his Aunt Jane, but Lawson had implied that if they made a good ‘fit’ they could help his dad, so Daniel was never going to let that drop, was he? Daniel gets in touch with Lawson, only to discover too late that Lawson is being manipulated by a gangster called Mason who believes that psychic powers can help his business no end, so now Daniel is in trouble too. Can Daniel outwit Mason and his gang and keep those he loves safe?

When I started reading this novel, I hadn’t realised it would take a turning into paranormal territory. I was expecting a story of survivor guilt, coming to terms with that and grief with Daniel eventually losing his dad – but there was more too. Rupert Wallis’s first novel, The Dark Inside (which I’ve not read) has been compared to those by Patrick Ness and David Almond. Having read and loved A Monster Calls by the former and Skellig by the latter, I can see why, for there are echoes of both these books and authors here too. However, Wallis substitutes the paranormal for Ness’s and Almond’s fantasy elements, and he makes Daniel’s power real. More than that, it takes two to make it work – it needs someone to fit with and focus it and, as Daniel will find out, it is potentially very dangerous indeed.

Mason is a nasty villain. Bald, manic and intense, he reminded me of Ross Mitchell from Eastenders but older; his henchmen were rather cartoonish heavies in comparison. Once Mason involves Daniel and Daniel’s new friend Rosie in his plans, this strand of the plot took another change in direction which I would describe as ‘Harry Potterish’. It changed the atmosphere from having a paranormal edge to a hybrid involving a magical quest too – although still exciting, the emotional charge of this section was different. It did, however, allow Wallis to create a superb and satisfying resolution to the novel.

Wallis has created a likeable protagonist in fifteen-year-old Daniel. I also liked Daniel’s streetwise best friend Bennett who is always on his side but challenges him to sort himself out, as bosom pals should always do. I enjoyed the supernatural elements in this book, making me keen to read Rupert’s first novel The Dark Inside, and  I look forward to more from this interesting author.

Sinkholes and psychics – what will Rupert Wallis sync next?

Rupert has written a wonderful article for us in our BookBuzz section on his experiences of his first year as a published author – click here.

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Annabel is one of the editors of Shiny New Books.

Rupert Wallis, All Sorts of Possible (Simon & Schuster: UK, 2015) ISBN 9891461143663, 384 pp., hardback.

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