Author(s): Kit de Waal
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.
Shortlisted for Costa First Novel Award 2016.
'Unforgettable, heartbreaking and uplifting - just read it' --Daily Mail
Tender and heart-breaking (Rachel Joyce, bestselling author of 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry')
A beautiful story told with compassion, urgency and wit (Stephen Kelman, author of the Booker-shortlisted Pigeon English)
Vivid and endearing - a very powerful book (Emma Healey, bestselling author of Elizabeth is Missing)
Leon is pure goodwill in a wicked world, and he won't leave you when you put this unique book down. Authentic and beautiful, urgent and honest, this novel does what only the best do: it quietly makes room in your heart. At the end of the story I couldn't bear to close the book on Leon. I felt I was abandoning him. I wanted to talk about it straight away with someone else who'd read it, and I know a great many readers will feel the same. (Chris Cleave, bestselling author of The Other Hand)
Beautiful and heartbreaking - I cried buckets of tears for Leon and his family (Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love)
A compelling story... Kit de Waal is to be congratulated (Jane Shemilt, bestselling author of Daughter)
Hotly anticipated and heartbreaking... a great read...it's no mean feat for a debut to so perfectly capture the world through the eyes of a child...his illuminating child's eye view of adult affairs harks back to the likes of Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird, Tom Sawyer and more recently Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mariella Frostrup, BBC Radio 4)
The unforgettable story of a boy struggling to belong, and the author captures both his mindset and the period impeccably. Heartbreaking and uplifting - just read it (Daily Mail)
My debut of the year so far...heartbreaking and warm at the same time (Stylist)
A funny, sad and endearing debut (Psychologies)
Searing (The Times)
Everything in My Name Is Leon rings true. It's an everyday story and this actually makes it more powerful: these are the lows and joys of real life. Someone will be living them as you read (Emerald Street)
A touching, thought-provoking debut (Guardian)
Powerful and gorgeously written...may make you cry, but it's also uplifting and full of hope (Good Housekeeping)
Heart-breaking yet told with wit and compassion - I loved it (Woman and Home)
Full of small exquisite details, de Waal's novel is ultimately affirmative. But be warned - it's a bit of a weepie (Metro)
Deeply moving, compulsively readable and, despite the heart-rending subject matter, often funny (Irish Times)
The voice of Leon is distinctive, beguiling and ultimately compelling, resonant of the young narrators in Room or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (RTE Guide)
Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother, who was a foster carer and a Caribbean father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, was a magistrate for several years and sits on adoption panels. She used to advise Social Services on the care of foster children, and has written training manuals on adoption and foster care. Her writing has received numerous awards including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2014 and 2015 and the SI Leeds Literary Reader's Choice Prize 2014. My Name is Leon is her first novel. She has two children.