🥳 Celebrating Black British History: ‘My Name Is Leon’ Book Review 🥳

Heartbreaking and tender, My Name Is Leon is my favourite of the new AQA texts. Here’s why.

Name: My Name Is Leon

Author: Chinoyerem Odimba

Published: 2016

Did you know that AQA are updating their modern drama set texts for the GCSEs in 2025? The Princess and the Hustler is one of the proposed texts to add more diversity to a predominantly dead-white-men canon. And while we shouldn’t denounce all texts by dead-white-men, it’s so important that students see themselves represented in the texts that they study.

As a literature student who recently did her GCSEs, I’m reading the new proposed texts so you don’t have to. To see if, as with this play, these texts are well chosen and an insight into Black British identity.

Check out my reviews of the other texts, Leave Taking and The Princess and the Hustler, here. While there is still changes that could be made regarding diversity in the English Curriculum, My Name Is Leon is an excellent book and one students (such as myself!) will love. Here’s why.

While I enjoyed the two plays, My Name Is Leon was the standout text for me. Written sweetly and tenderly, I felt incredibly invested in Leon from the opening pages. It follows Leon as he moves through the care system and his relationship with his biological mother, brother and found family. Kit De Wall is an incredibly skilled author that navigates hope, humour and grief seamlessly.

Like many other students, I likely would not have read this book if it were not a set text. I’m so glad I did: it answered questions about the foster system that I hadn’t even considered before. That is why it is so important that My Name Is Leon is part of the set texts.

The book highlights the tireless work of Social Workers and the joy of found family, as well as institutionalised racism within the foster system.

As in Leave Taking, we see a parental/guardian’s perspective in Maureen who is such a caring, maternal figure. Carol and Maureen are both maternal figures for Leon and for a lot of the book is Leon conflicted between the two women. Carol and Maureen seem to be almost foils to each other. What do you think?

Baby Jake and Leon’s relationship is so beautifully written that I could vividly imagine each scene. I LOVED the writing. – the style clearly reflects Leon’s anger and confusion. We could feel the solace Leon got from gardening which was beautiful. It also reflects his young mindset which will make the text accessible for many students.

Also, My Name Is Leon is firmly rooted in the 1980s and I think students will enjoy the snatches of cultural context – from the Dukes of Hassard and the Royal Wedding, to Margaret Thatcher and Curley Wurleys.

‘He feels a dark star of pain in his throat and the last warmth of her touch on his fingers.


Moreover, Leon is a fully rounded character; his race and gender are only part of his overall identity. There is a focus on the theme of race: we see the impact of the Black Power movement on England, and the Brixton Riots which are relevant to modern BLM protests. However, family, grief and healing are as equally important themes.

The only thing that was unclear for me when the book finished was the character of Mr Devlin. Mr Devlin is accepted by Leon’s family at the end of the book and hinted to be romantically involved with Sylvia – this is obviously problematic if Mr Devlin ‘likes little boys’ as Tufty suggests. Was Mr Devlin attempting to take advantage of Leon when teaching him how to lift weights? What was the final explanation of the wooden heads? This felt unclear and is obviously something that I wanted to be cleared up.

However, overall, My Name Is Leon is an incredible book with gorgeous characters that highlight key social issues. Students (such as myself!) are sure to love the history and storyline whilst being educated on Black British history.

What do you think about AQA adding plays with more diverse authors and characters to their set texts? Let me know in the comments.

While the diversity in my book recommendations isn’t perfect, I’m always trying to read books about challenging subjects. The Princess and the Hustler can be read by anyone, however I mostly read YA and feel more confident recommending it. Young adult books I’d recommend that tackle racism include:

Published by Hundreds&Thousands

I’m a teenager (and a Hufflepuff) from Manchester. I like oversized jumpers, music that isn't on the radio anymore and books. Pretty much any book I can get my hands on but my favourites are Young Adult, fantasy and science fiction. One day, I decided to share some of my opinions on some great - and not so great - books to people around the world. And here it is! I really enjoy it and I hope you do too. The aim is hundreds and thousands of book reviews (see what I did there?) but I’m not quite up to that. Yet.

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