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.
I didn’t think it would ever be possible for a novel to break my heart but that is exactly what My Name is Leon did.
Leon is a nine year old mixed race boy, his brother Jake is white. Due to his mother suffering with post natal depression, Leon pretty much has to look after himself as well as his baby brother. After his mum has a total break down the boys are taken into care.
It was sad reading of Leon trying his best to take care of himself as well as his mum and brother, he knows with being in care previously that if he doesn’t make out that everything is okay at home he will be taken into care again which is something he understandably doesn’t want.
The story is set in the early 1980’s and I know that support as well as advanced drugs for post natal depression probably wasn’t as readily available back then but even so I couldn’t help myself from wanting to give Leon’s mum a good slap. I know it isn’t her fault but the fact that she had got herself pregnant to two different men who neither wants to know her or the children after, I couldn’t help but hold her part responsible for what happens to her children. Overall I did feel sorry for her and what she also has to go through but I just found it so hard to not feel so deeply for what the boys have to go through due to it, especially Leon.
This book had me feeling so many emotions. I felt so angry with the mum and the social services so much so that I had to keep putting the book down and taking a few deep breathes before carrying on. I cried many tears in frustration and anger whilst reading and my heart just literally broke in two when reading about Leon and Jake.
All Leon wants is to be loved as much by his mum as the love she has for his little brother. He desperately wants for them all to live under one roof and be a family again. As adults sometimes it is hard to comprehend certain things in life but for a child to be taken away from their mother and put into care must be so confusing. Poor Leon is so messed up. He reacts by stealing things in the hope that he can get his family back together and he feels like he is very much on his own and that no one wants him. I mean how can your heart not physically ache for this child. Just writing this review is making me cry as that is how much Leon and this story got under my skin.
Luckily for Leon there are some good people in his life in the form of his foster carer as well as his new friends down the allotment, it just takes him a while to realise it.
My Name is Leon is one of the most heart breaking novels I have ever read and advise to have tissues to hand whilst reading. You will fall head over heels in love for this brave little boy that has to face so much in his young life. One highly emotional read but without a doubt an absolute must read.
My thanks to THE Book Club and Anna at Penguin Random House UK.
Goodreads rating 5/5 stars.
My Name is Leon is available to purchase from Amazon.