I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
It’s London, 1980 and nine year old Leon is proud of his little baby bother Jake. Although their mum has problems, Jake doesn’t cry much and anyway Leon always knows what to do to make him laugh and smile.
However, Leon’s dad left when his mum was pregnant with Jake, and Jake’s dad is already married – and now his mum is blaming Leon for Jake’s dad not wanting to be around.
When their mum finally has a breakdown, Leon & Jake are taken away to live with Maureen. At first, Leon is worried, but Maureen is cheerful and Jake likes her. Eventually though, a nice family come and take Jake away, and foster-carer Maureen has to explain to Leon that Jake will be living with them forever – without him.
Because Jake is a baby, and white, and Leon, nine years old, dark-skinned and troubled isn’t likely to be wanted by anyone else any time soon.
This is a poignant sympathetically written account of the difficulty of growing up when you’re unwanted and different. It tells the story of so many kids whose early years can shape the rest of their lives – no matter what direction they would have trodden their own path given the chance.
It is realistic and unapologetic for being so. However, at times it is also uplifting that there are unsung heroes out there who are making a difference to individual lives every day.
A well-written snapshot of a society we may occasionally bury our heads in the sand about.
My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal will be published on 6th June.