What the World Doesn't See

What the World Doesn't See

By Author / Illustrator

Mel Darbon


Representation & Inclusion

Age range(s)



Usborne Publishing Ltd




Paperback / softback




Run away from what they see. Discover who you are. Maudie and Jake's family is falling to pieces - their mum's been struggling with her grief since they lost Dad and one night she vanishes. When Jake is put into care, Maudie can't take it any more. She comes up with a wild plan to pull their family back together - by kidnapping Jake. On the run in Cornwall, Jake and Maudie each find something they hadn't expected - freedom and love. But can they find Mum and a way to heal together?   

A powerful and insightful novel about grief, disability and first love; a story about getting lost and finding yourself.

Video & Q&A with author Mel Darbon



This poignant, sensitive read is a story of familial love tested to its limits. Maudie and Jake have been left devastated by their father's recent death; their mother, sinking into depression and barely able to fulfil parental responsibilities. As a family already living with the complications and demands of Jake's significant learning disabilities, this new blow fractures their previously solid unit. When their mother leaves, unable to cope any longer, Maudie feels the weight of responsibility for her brother and hatches an audacious plan to heal their broken family.

What the World Doesn't See is a character-driven book with a genuinely endearing protagonist. Jake is the star of the show - exuding warmth, vulnerability and humour. The supporting characters are warm and kind and instead of painting most people as villains, the book demonstrates that most people - the cab driver, the stranger on the Beach, the waitress - are inherently caring and that many of those who aren't are simply unaware of, or have not been exposed to, the difficulties faced by others. It's general picture is one of an increasingly understanding world.

The fledgling love story between Gerren and Maudie is a sideshow to the depiction of familial love and that's a refreshing change. This is very much a book that highlights the importance and strength, as well as the difficulties, of families - but the tone always veers to the positive. Maudie is an exceptionally willing and able sister - where she might easily be frustrated, she is caring and fiercely protective and despite the absence of her mother, Maudie has obviously watched years of dedicated care to Jake and is an able if - understandably- sometimes distracted teenage carer.

A tender-hearted book that will appeal to fans of Lisa Thompson, Stewart Foster and others.

384 pages / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


What the World Doesn't See is told in a dual narrative from the point of view of two siblings, Maudie and Jake. Their father died recently and their mother has been struggling to hold the family together in her grief. One night, their mum simply walks out and their aunt puts Jake into foster care because she feels unable to juggle work and child care with Jake's learning disabilities.

Suddenly Maudie and Jake have lost everyone they held dear. Maudie puts a wild plan in to action with the aim of bringing their mum back home and reuniting her family. She "kidnaps" Jake from his specialist foster home and runs away with him to Cornwall. Hiding away in a Cornish caravan park, close to the place where they enjoyed their last family holiday, Maudie and Jake meet Gerren. As they spend more time together, Maudie finds herself falling in love for the first time.

I really enjoyed reading this book. As a parent of a child that has recently been diagnosed with autism in their twenties, I wish that there had been more books with neuro-diverse characters in when she was growing up. The scene where Jake is having a shower, which led to sensory overload, really resonated!  I could tell that the author had first-hand experience of living with an autistic sibling and I think that it is wonderful that Mel Darbon has been able to give her brother a voice through writing this book. It really highlighted some negative experiences with some of the general public's intolerance towards learning difficulties. Reading this book will hopefully help to promote inclusion.

What the World Doesn't See is a superb read and I found myself unable to put it down. It is very insightful and I was really rooting for the main characters in their quest to find their mum. I think this book will appeal to teenagers that enjoy contemporary fiction. The cover, illustrated by Adams Carvalho, is very striking and will stand out on the shelves.

384 pages / Reviewed by Clair, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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