Title: Finding Home
Author: Garrett Leigh
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 200 Pages
Category: Young Adult, Contemporary
At a Glance: Finding Home is a rich, compelling novel of redemption and healing, and one that any YA reader will want to have in their library.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: 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.
Review: Living a life of fear and abuse is difficult to imagine for most, but for Leo and his little sister, Lila, it is a way of life. After his mother is murdered by his drunken, abusive father, Leo and Lila are shuffled from foster home to foster home, predominantly because Leo bears not only the external scars but the internal ones of a life lived in terror. He wears his anger like a shield, allowing no one to touch him, distrusting everyone and hating/fearing grown males, in particular. So, when this injured pair of children comes to live at Charlie’s home, it is no surprise that Leo retreats from everyone. Charlie and Leo are the same age, but their story is both alike and completely different. Charlie was taken in, like his two older siblings, at a younger age by the Poultons, and considers the loving couple his parents. However, that doesn’t mean Charlie is unaffected; after all, he has seen kids come and go from his home, and all have borne scars but none quite so deep as Leo’s.
Over time, Charlie realizes that the feelings he has as he watches over Leo’s nightmare-ridden sleep are becoming more than just compassionate understanding. He likes Leo, really likes him, and Leo feels the same—but the past is like a third person in the room, and it is strong and manipulative and may indeed destroy what fragile feelings Leo and Charlie have for each other before they can even take root.
Garrett Leigh is a gifted author and does wounded characters better than many in this field. In her latest novel, Finding Home, she plumbs the emotional depths to build not just one but two rich, fractured characters who resonate off the page with realism and beauty. Leo and Charlie are both injured souls, but Charlie has had years to slowly heal and come to terms with his abandonment. For Leo, it is all so very fresh and horrifying. After all, a father who tried to kill him and his sibling after murdering his mother as they hid in a cubbyhole beneath the stairs is not something anyone will likely recover from any time soon.
However, it’s the narrative aspect by Charlie and his own emotional roller coaster that enriches this novel and captures the imagination thoroughly. Charlie has such empathy for Leo, and yet he is a typical teen who also views the two new kids in the house as just one more intrusion into his carefully crafted life. Charlie barely gets along with his sister Fliss, and having another prickly, emo influence in the house doesn’t sit well with him. But, once again, this author displays those exceptional storytelling abilities by carefully dropping small hints where we, as well as Charlie, are privy to the incredible pain Leo hides behind his anger. It’s these moments where Charlie’s heart just melts. Slowly, feelings rise to the surface that Charlie just cannot always deal with nor wants to acknowledge. It’s not that he hasn’t ever thought about being gay, it’s just that he struggles enough with fitting in at school and dealing with his own feelings of abandonment.
The story is so well paced. There is no sudden, huge emotional glut leading to some version of insta-love allowed, but rather, a slow and steady reveal of the needs that hide inside both Charlie and Leo. These are teen boys, through and through, and their feelings/thoughts/misgivings and naïve thinking is spot on. The story is a beautiful one of slow and bumpy healing and acceptance. Charlie and Leo are not instantly well adjusted or even nearly happy with the life they have been given, but their struggles, while vastly different, are genuine, and small victories are definitely hard fought.
As a YA novel, Finding Home excels at illuminating the thoughts and feelings of teen boys who struggle with emotions and life circumstances they never should have to experience. You are drawn inexorably into their tangled lives and find yourself emotionally enthralled. Finding Home is a rich, compelling novel of redemption and healing, and one that any YA reader will want to have in their library.
You can buy Finding Home here: