I picked this book up cheap at half price books. Ironically, another bookstagramer did a mini review on it a few days later. This prompted me to add it to my June reading list, so here is my honest review.
About the Book
Author: Kit De Waal
Published: July 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Other works: This is Waal’s first Novel. She has another book called The Trick to Time that was released in March of 2018.
It’s 1981, a year of riots and royal weddings. The Dukes of Hazzard is on TV and Curly Wurlys are in the shops. And trying to find a place in it all is young Leon.
Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, a belly like Father Christmas, and mutters swearwords under her breath when she thinks can’t hear. Maureen feeds and looks after them, and claims everything will be okay.
But will they ever see their mother again? Who are the couple who secretly visit Joke? The adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing pretend faces. They are threatening to take Jake away and give him to strangers. Because Jake is white and Leon is not.
As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.
Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we somehow manage to find our way home.
Nine year old Leon is going through some things. His mother has mental health issues that leave her unable to properly care for him and his baby brother Jake. When their mother, Carol has a breakdown, they are carted off to social services. Luckily they end up in foster care with Maureen who genuinely loves the boys. Since Leon is older and bi-racial, finding him a forever home is pretty much impossible. Jake, who is white and only a baby, is adopted by a lovely family and taken away for Leon to never see again.
This was a charming and sad story. Charming because of the characters. The character development in this story was amazing. I loved everything about Maureen. It put my in the mind of Sing, Unburied, Sing because of the family dynamics and the older role models that Leon ended up with. Leon was only nine, but he had to grow up fast because he had to take care of his little brother and their mother. He was mature in a sense, but still a child struggling to develop.
Waal has a great way of expressing the anger of a young child going through such a hard time. At times the book was funny (like when he stole a pence or two from people who made him mad, or the Zebra) and at times very sad. I would have liked to see more growth with Leon as this story was only in the span of about a year. The book started off great, but I felt that it got a little redundant. I would have loved to see Leon grow up a little more instead of so much of his everyday activities. I do like the way things ended, but I kind of felt that the ending was not very realistic.
I gave My Name is Leon a 3/5 stars. It was an OK read and I would recommend it simply because someone else may throughly enjoy this book. I just wanted more for Leon.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it?