The survivors of a violent crime test the limits of their new foster family in this story set in England.
Fifteen-year-old footballer and bad-boy Leo and his younger, hearing-impaired sister, Lila, both white, witnessed and barely survived the murder of their mother and burning of their home by their stepfather. As their new foster family in a town nearby, all of the Poultons, including their two adopted children, try their best to make the transition as easy as possible for Leo and Lila. Lila immediately gloms onto her new family. Leo, however, is expectedly rebellious, snide and flirting with danger. The giant burn scar on his arm constantly makes him ill, and it’s clear to readers that he most likely is experiencing PTSD. Meanwhile, Charlie, also 15 and adopted from an orphanage in Brazil when he was 2, immediately takes a liking to Leo. Soon the two crush on each other and illicitly make out in Charlie’s bedroom. A predictable act of violence ensues, which threatens Leo and Lila’s ability to stay together. Leigh’s prose is fairly straightforward, wrought with psychological and emotional drama that teeters on the brink of becoming too much. The lovable secondary characters, including Charlie’s older brother Andy and sassy, goth-chic sister Fliss, bring humanity and hilarity to the narrative. Though readers of edgier teen fiction may find the novel fairly tame, others will be charmed by the warmth of the Poulton family and the bad-boy sensibility of Leo.
Surprisingly heartwarming. (Fiction. 12-17)