'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 12 November 2010

Review: Letters to Leonardo

It's always a joy to finally read a book you've been hankering to for so long. It's even more a joy when you know a teensy bit about the author who wrote the book. But the best joy of all is when you really love that book, and you marvel at the talent you hadn't even known was lying in wait.

Dee White's Letters to Leonardo is one of the most touching and warmly-written books I've read in a long time. Its voice - a fifteen-year-old boy named Matt - is so authentic, I can hear the sound and nuance coming from his lips.
I can also feel his pain, confusion, teen angst - as a long-dead mother seemingly comes to life after a motherless decade. It's no wonder Matt resents his parenting-book-addicted father Dave, who thought he was doing the right thing by hiding his mother's whereabouts from his son.

And don't all parents think they're doing the 'right thing'? Doing the best they can, the way they know how?

Lying to his son about his mother's 'death' may seem unforgivable but as the reasoning behind Dave's extraordinary 'lie' begins to unfold, we also learn of the depth of his love for his son. He was only protecting him, after all.

But from what?

As Matt's mother comes careening back into his life, we are taken on a journey into a world where many consciously fear to tread... to neglect, to mental health, to fear, to abandonment, loss... even death. Mothers don't abandon their children! Mother's don't get sick! Mothers don't become the child! Mothers don't fall apart at the seams or create untold chaos!

Or do they?

White weaves a subplot through the book that ties the storyline together in a series of letters. When Matt's teacher asks her students to write a series of letters to someone who inspires them, his choice of Leonardo Da Vinci is perfect... for Matt himself is an aspiring artist. And the way he opens up to this long-gone mastermind offers the reader yet another route to the inner workings of his complicated young mind.

This is a confronting, deeply sad and healthy-dose-of-reality book that will entrance readers. White writes with a simplicity that belies meaning - we may be reading a story through the eyes of a fresh, inexperienced teen, but the depth of emotion and understanding is both poignant and beautiful - as is the way White has captured the deep loss this young lad endures.

Moving, authentically-written and hopeful - this book treads delicately into the mental health waters... and honestly - it tells us things we truly need to hear.

Title: Letters to Leonardo
Author: Dee White
Publisher: Walker Books, A$16.95RRP
Publication Date: 1 July 2009
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781921150883
For ages: 12+
Type: Young Adult Fiction