Paige Toon’s novel for 2021 lies on the borderline of young adult and adult fiction, which makes it difficult for me to decide how much I liked this novel. Do I pack in reading her novels altogether? I’m torn by this one as it is very much YA and not my style, yet addresses a subject that isn’t often addressed in society: fostering.

Flicking between secondary school and the present, young Leah doesn’t get much attention from her parents like her foster siblings do who have come from broken homes before. Her parents are very selfless, loving and treat each child as their own, respecting each child’s needs and experiences, however distressed and different they are.

People come and go in Leah’s life; not just her foster siblings, but her friends too. Toon includes a subtle plot as we are left wondering what has happened to her beloved Theo, the father of their daughter Emilie after he failed to come home after a night out looking for their babysitter – did he run away? Was he drunk? Has something worse happened?

Whilst it is not quite a thriller, we do learn more about the relationships and friendships between Leah, Theo and George (her foster brother). It is a refreshing and rewarding take on fostering, revealing a different stance on foster children and their families being seen as ‘scum’: as Toon thoughtfully reveals through the characters, many of them just need care, time and guidance which also helps to clear up misconceptions of the care system.

For every child that comes into Leah’s parents care, they get each child to plant a tree to make everyone feel included, remembered and to leave their mark: they will always be family.

The plot twist is subtle and loose ends are tied up quickly, but I should have realised sooner that this was a YA novel that wasn’t quite my cup of tea, compared to past novels of hers which are borderline above YA.

Rating – 3/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre – fiction, domestic fiction, romance

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