How do you find a home when your heart is in ashes?
With their mum dead and their father on remand for her murder, Leo Hendry and his little sister, Lila, have nothing in the world but each other. Broken and burned, they’re thrust into the foster care system. Leo shields Lila from the fake families and forced affection, until the Poulton household is the only place left to go.
Charlie de Sousa is used to other kids passing through the Poulton home, but there’s never been anyone like his new foster brother. Leo’s physical injuries are plain to see, but it’s the pain in his eyes that draws Charlie in the most.
Day by day, they grow closer, but the darkness inside Leo consumes him. He rejects his foster parents, and when Charlie gets into trouble, Leo’s attempt to protect him turns violent. When Leo loses control, no one can reach him—except Charlie. He desperately needs a family—a home—and only Charlie can show him the way.
*I was provided a copy of this via Netgalley
This book caught me by surprise. I love Leigh’s work, so the fact that I loved this one isn’t really that shocking. Somehow, this book wasn’t on my radar until I was perusing Netgalley a while ago. I went into it knowing nothing of it and was instantly hooked. This book was a quick read — not because it lacked depth or emotion — but because the story grabbed me and because it was well written. Leigh frames the story skillfully — the prose never detracted from the story. Both Leo and Charlie are going through such difficult things, and I never felt as though it was over-dramatized, over-wrought or exploited.
Here stems my biggest kudos to this book: books about foster care kids, troubled kids, kids who have been abused or neglected — they are often turned into tropes, or are cheapened, their stories designed as a quick thrill. Basically, these stories often end up as tragedy porn. Leigh did NONE of that. Readers are gifted a view into not just Leo and Charlie’s hearts, but the characters surrounding them. Charlie’s parents were so well grounded and fleshed out, as were his siblings.
Leigh worked several threads throughout, with delayed reveal of some story aspects. In some cases, it worked very well. For example, learning that Charlie didn’t speak as a child — Leigh introduces us to this in a moment where it’s really important for Leo to understand and see. At this point in the story, Leo is actively working to other himself, and seeing Charlie as a kid with a perfect family who hasn’t experienced these kinds of difficulties was a part of that. Leigh does not at any point lead the reader, or the characters, to believe that Leo and Charlie’s experiences are similar. Instead she uses this to help make Charlie relatable to Leo.
The reveal of what was going on with Leo was not as smooth as it could have been. It was built up to be a big reveal, but it…wasn’t? It’s a nitpick really. The tension of that thread wasn’t as tight as it could have been.
Leo’s relationship with all of the kids — his sister, and then Charlie’s siblings — was something I very much enjoyed. Leigh created different moments where people Leo might relate to more than adults were able to meet some of his needs. In this way, we began to see a network being woven around him. Leigh did a great job of establishing the beginnings of trust between them. Plus Leo’s love for and care for his sister was just heartbreaking and beautiful.
The subject matter is difficult but I think it definitely does a good job staying within YA bounds. I would recommend this book.
Genre: Contemporary Genre: Young Adult Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Riptide Publishing Review Tag: coming of age Trigger Warning: Domestic Abuse Trigger Warning: Drug Use Trigger Warning: Physical Assault Finding Home Garrett Leigh
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.
Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for Queer Books Unbound. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.