book review: When the World Turned Upside Down

Title: When the World Turned Upside Down
Author: K. Ibura
Date: Scholastic; 2022
Main characters: Shayla, Liam, Ai and Ben

Through the lives of Shayla, Liam, Ai, and Ben young readers may begin to make sense of what happened during The Pandemic. These four friends, who live in the same apartment building, are suddenly sent home from school when Covid sets in, and their worlds turned upside down. The group isn’t provided the details of the virus but, they know people are getting sick and they’re supposed to stay inside. They need a strong sense of agency to navigate this new lifestyle because most of the adults in their lives are tending to their own problems.

Liam burst into a big grin. It felt good to realized that he had more power than he thought. He could help his mother at home, and he could help the super push away the virus. His mom and friends did so much to help him deal with his panic, and it felt good to know there was something he could do to help keep everyone safe. (p. 155)

The novel’s message is more about what young people can do to survive when things get bad rather than the specifics of the pandemic. It doesn’t examine mask requirements, the ethics of quarantines or the system oppression that were revealed as the nation began this ordeal. Rather, through the characters, it presents four-stories about how families were impacted and how children might have reacted as the world turned upside down, both because of the pandemic and the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The story leaves a lot of space for contemplation or discussion, something we all probably need as restrictions end and young people continue living in this ever-changing landscape.

Author K. iburra is a writer, traveler, mother, and visual artist from New Orleans, LA. She began writing in college to make sense of history and to imagine new worlds.