Book Review: The Leavers – Lisa Ko

Book Review: The Leavers – Lisa Ko

Release Date:
24th April 2018
Publisher: Dialogue Books
Pages: 368
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.


One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.


This is a beautiful sad story of a young Chinese boy named Deming who’s mother disappears and his world is turned upside down when he is adopted by two wealthy white college professors. They give him a ‘more American name’ in the form of Daniel Wilkinson. The book follows Deming as he attempts to adjust to this new life as well as understand the mother that abandoned him.

book cover (30)This is a really powerful and moving story and one that I think is really important. It’s easy to see why this quiet tale has won so many awards because they are very well deserved. The writing is beautiful and really explores what it means to belong as well as issues around race and identity. I found myself completely absorbed in this book and it is an absolutely stunning debut novel.

This timely book is very character driven, focusing on the relationships between the characters and how you identify yourself based on your family and those around you. It explores different time periods in Deming’s life – his time with his mother before she left, his adjustment to life as the son of Peter and Kay as well as more recently as a struggling student with a gambling problem. It is at times heartbreaking but I definitely think this is a book everyone should take the time to read. If you’re looking for a strong emotional tale, this is definitely the kind of book you’re looking for.
4 stars

Contemporary-AThon Wrap Up!

Contemporary-AThon Wrap Up!

Book Review (17)

So last week I joined in with the Contemporary-AThon readathon. The goal was to read seven books in the seven days. I pretty much knew I wouldn’t manage all seven but I figured it would be fun to pick a TBR and give it a shot. I managed five and a bit books which I’m really pleased about, so here’s my readthon wrap up!

34220480 (2)Challenge 1: Read a book with orange on the cover
For this challenge I read Another Place by Matthew Crow. This book was a really interesting blend of mystery and exploration of mental health. The story follows Claudette, a young teenager dealing with depression. On her release from a mental health facility she learns that her friend Sarah has disappeared. Desperate to know what happened to her Claudette delves into the seedier parts of town to discover the truth behind Sarah’s disappearance. This book was fast paced and intense and I really really enjoyed it. I ended up rating it 3.75 out of 5.
Total Pages: 288

Challenge 2: Read a book by a new to you author36389267 (1)
For this I read A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews. This is definitely an emotional and hard hitting book. The story follows Beck, a young boy forced to play piano by his physically and emotionally abusive mother. He is incredibly unhappy, but when he’s paired with August to work on a school project, he glimpses the chance of something better. This book will definitely stay with me for a while and I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars.
Total Pages: 570

Challenge 3: Read a book that is dark/spooky/taboo39018329 (1)
For this I read Easy Prey by Catherine Lo which I absolutely loved. After a teachers nude pictures are leaked online, three students are deemed responsible. But each student swears they are not responsible, so who did it? I honestly couldn’t put this one down. It was such a twisty, turny read – jumping time and perspective. I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars and it was definitely my favourite read of the readathon.
Total Pages: 970

Challenge 4: Read a diverse book
35247769 (1)I decided I would for once in my life complete a series and read the last book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. I really enjoyed Always and Forever Lara Jean, it was just as sweet and lovely as the other books and it really was a great end to the series. I’m definitely going to try and pick up more books from Jenny Han in the future. This one got a 4 out of 5 stars.
Total Pages: 1247

Challenge 5: Read a book in a non-traditional format21412023
Now I had originally planned to read Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon on my Kindle but I didn’t get the chance to read it. Instead I decided to pick up a mystery graphic novel instead. The Woods Vol 1: The Arrow is a dark mystery story in which 437 students, 52 teachers and 24 additional staff all disappear without a trace. What happened to them and where are they now? This was dark and creepy and I loved it! It turned out to be less of a contemporary and more of a horror/science fiction but I’m still counting it because I read it for the readathon. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Total Pages: 1375

Challenge 6: Read a book with your initials on the cover38185855 (2)
This is the challenge that I haven’t finished yet which is why I only completed five and a half challenges. For this challenge I picked The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente. The story follows a comic book artist who is framed for a murder at comic con. I found the story a little difficult to get into and I’m just over 100 pages in, so I’m hoping the rest of the book picks up.
Total Pages: 1475

Overall I’m pretty pleased with my ContemporaryAThon reading. If I hadn’t been at Bloody Scotland and doing some other bits and pieces I might have completed all the challenges but it was still really fun! Did you participate in the readathon? What books did you read? And if you’ve read any of these let me know what you thought!