Books & Literature

Book Review: What We All Saw, by Mike Lucas

YA FICTION: Witches only exist in stories. Everyone knows that. But what if the stories are real?

A gripping horror story about children and witches, but what is truth and what is fiction?
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Mike Lucas is the author of picture books Olivia’s Voice, How to Build a House and recently published How to Build a Backyard. He also owns a bookshop in Blackwood and works fulltime as an engineer. What We All Saw is his first YA novel.

This story, set in 1976, is written from the perspective of Sam, one of four children living on an estate in south-west England. The other children are Shell, a girl who is blind, gentle Charlie who loves storytelling, and Gray who always has a chip on his shoulder. Bordering the estate is a wood, and in the wood, there is an old quarry. Local legends talk about witches and deaths near the edge of the quarry, known as Hag’s Drop.

In this era, as the summer holidays draw to a close, children are able to stay out all day wandering around the countryside, only coming home as it gets dark: it’s a time of innocence before having to grow up. But these four children have a secret, one which they have sworn to conceal. And who really knows exactly what happened, especially when they all see and hear something different. Were their minds playing tricks on them?And even thoughwe are told that witches only exist in stories, are they actually real?

Lucas also introduces the reader to Mr Grant, who is a master story teller, mysterious town identities from the past, and Denny Jones, Steve Smith and Patrick Mc Mahon, the town bullies. Sam’s pity for those who come from homes where life is cruel endears him to the reader and gives us empathy towards these children. A lovely insight into the thought process of Sam is when he says, “This was the first time I ever realised that learning about people was the best education you could get … people who were different. And the greater the difference, the more you would learn.”

The way that the children support each other throughout the story, especially their friend Shell who cannot see, is heart-warming.

Lucas cleverly combines present and past, as the children try to unravel the truth about Hag’s Drop all while trying to conceal their terrible secret. Charlie’s love of storytelling allows Lucas to give us further information as he recounts his stories about witches.

What We All Saw begins as it means to continue. There are really very few moments where the drama lets up. The reader is kept on the edge of their seat for almost the entire book. It keeps building, adding more information, until truth and myth become rolled into one. As this tension continues to grow throughout the book, the story comes to a satisfactory but unexpected end.

With 52 chapters and just over 300 pages, What We All Saw is a story you may not want or be able to put down. It is gripping from start to finish and for those young adults who like to be kept on the edge of their chair, this may just be the story for you.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by:  Penguin Books Australia
Released: May 2022
RRP: $19.99

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