My Name Is Leon by Kit de Waal

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Taut, emotionally intense, and wholly believable, this beautiful and uplifting debut gives readers a hero to champion.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

For fans of The Language of Flowers, a sparkling, big-hearted, page-turning debut set in the 1970s about a young black boy’s quest to reunite with his beloved white half-brother after they are separated in foster care.

Leon loves chocolate bars, Saturday morning cartoons, and his beautiful, golden-haired baby brother. When Jake is born, Leon pokes his head in the crib and says, “I’m your brother. Big brother. My. Name. Is. Leon. I am eight and three quarters. I am a boy.” Jake will play with no one but Leon, and Leon is determined to save him from any pain and earn that sparkling baby laugh every chance he can.

But Leon isn’t in control of this world where adults say one thing and mean another, and try as he might he can’t protect his little family from everything. When their mother falls victim to her inner demons, strangers suddenly take Jake away; after all, a white baby is easy to adopt, while a half-black nine-year-old faces a less certain fate. Vowing to get Jake back by any means necessary, Leon’s own journey—on his brand-new BMX bike—will carry him through the lives of a doting but ailing foster mother, Maureen; Maureen’s cranky and hilarious sister, Sylvia; a social worker Leon knows only as “The Zebra”; and a colorful community of local gardeners and West Indian political activists.

Told through the perspective of nine-year-old Leon, too innocent to entirely understand what has happened to him and baby Jake, but determined to do what he can to make things right, he stubbornly, endearingly struggles his way through a system much larger than he can tackle on his own. My Name Is Leon is a vivid, gorgeous, and uplifting story about the power of love, the unbreakable bond between brothers, and the truth about what, in the end, ultimately makes a family.
 

About Kit de Waal

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Kit de Waal is an award-winning short story writer. She was born in Birmingham, UK, to an Irish mother and Kittian father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law and writes about the urban underbelly, forgotten and overlooked places where the best stories are found. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University and is a founder member of Leather Lane Writers and Oxford Narrative Group. My Name Is Leon is her first book.
 
Published July 26, 2016 by Simon & Schuster. 304 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for My Name Is Leon
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on Apr 13 2016

Taut, emotionally intense, and wholly believable, this beautiful and uplifting debut gives readers a hero to champion.

Read Full Review of My Name Is Leon | See more reviews from Kirkus

Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Zoë Apostolides on Jul 22 2016

Ultimately, this coming-of-age tale offers a refreshingly sensitive and intensely poignant exploration of redemption, responsibility and the many varying definitions of the word “family”.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Anita Sethi on May 14 2017

The author – who worked for many years as a magistrate and in criminal and family law – portrays the pain of being parted from a sibling, the sense of being an outsider, and the search for love and belonging. Kit de Waal has crafted her characters with such care that the reader, too, cannot help but care.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Bernardine Evaristo on Jun 03 2016

Ultimately, the novel is uplifting because we see in it a fundamental goodness in the human spirit – And with people other than his blood parents guiding him, we trust that Leon will survive the odds stacked against him.

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Reader Rating for My Name Is Leon
77%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 20 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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