My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal

I absolutely loved this book. Set in the early eighties this book revolves around Leon, a nine year old boy with an absent black father and a mentally ill white mother. When he and his baby brother, Jake, are taken into care Jake is adopted because he is white and Leon is left under the care of two older sisters.

The book is interesting because it deals with a lot of very serious subjects but because everything is filtered through Leon’s perspective we get a strange slant on them. In the background are the Brixton riots (I assume. Juding by the events mentioned, Raiders of the Lost Ark in cinemas and A Royal wedding, the book is set in 1981), racial tensions and the Black Power movement. We see conflict between an old Irish man and a younger black man, both of whom befriend Leon and struggle to form a connection with one another.

But, at the forefront of the story for Leon is his quest to get his mother and brother back. Leon’s life is listening behind close doors to foster parents and social services and trying to piece together what is in store for him. He can’t trust, can’t feel at home and can’t accept the fact that someone else is looking after his brother.

Leon’s relationship with the adults around him is touching, even if he doesn’t realise it. People are drawn to him and his time in the allotments is my favourite part of the book. I’d thoroughly recommend it for its comments on family, class differences, racism and childhood.

My Name is Leon is published on 2nd June 2016. I received an early copy through Netgalley.


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