Title: My Name is Leon
Author: Kit de Waal
Pages: 254 Pages
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.
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, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since 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 heart-breaking 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 manage to find our way home.
My Name is Leon is the debut novel from Kit de Waal; an exciting new voice in the world of literature. It is the story of Leon, a young boy who has to cope with one of the cruellest hands that life can deal. Leon and his younger brother Jake are put into care after it is deemed that their mother Carol cannot look after them, but in a cruel twist of fate a new family want to adopt Jake and leave Leon behind. This is the heartbreaking story of a young boy whose confusion is echoed by the rioting backdrop of Thatcherite Britain.
It is clear from the first page that My Name is Leon is something special. Told from Leon’s perspective, as the reader you are completely immersed in how he is feeling about things. Leon’s anger, confusion and frustration are palpable and the story had my heart pulsing with empathy on several occasions.
I found myself getting angry on behalf of Leon. Angry by the way the social workers tried to manipulate his feelings, angry that he was rejected because of the colour of his skin and angry that nothing was explained to Leon. Nothing. It was awful to read but it is important. My Name is Leon is an important novel.
My Name is Leon is one of the best books that I have read in 2016. The foster system has been explored many times in novels but I would be hard pressed to find one that deals with the topic so well and so brutally honest.
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal is available now.
For more information regarding Kit de Waal (@KitdeWaal) please visit www.kitdewaal.com.
For more information regarding Penguin Books UK (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.