Ever since I interviewed a book blogger with dyslexia, I’ve been interested in reading more books on the topic. I’ve since read a few, most of them for a middle grade audience – so it was incredibly interesting to check out one geared at a YA audience too. My Name is Layla is a book that immediately drew me in! In read fast and fluently, and I didn’t even notice how I made it through the first half in just one evening.
Check out on Goodreads
★★★★✬ 4.5 stars
How I read this:
free ebook copy from author
Layla is a teen with a rather rough inner life at the moment. While to others it might seem that everything is normal at their household, Layla suffers, because her mom is never at home – working as a nurse at odd hours, in order to survive with two children as a single mom. Layla has also never enjoyed school, because try as she might, things just don’t work out for her.
Despite trying hard, everything ends in disappointment, and both her teachers as well as even her classmates think she’s not worth a glance. So another school year begins, and Layla is completely jaded and doesn’t expect anything. But maybe… Maybe things are finally going to change.
I felt like My Name is Layla was a very relatable book. And it’s odd, because I don’t have dyslexia, and neither did I have a hard time keeping up with my schoolwork. My reasons for disliking school were completely different.
And yet – somehow Layla’s experiences are universally relatable. Reyna Marder Gentin makes the main focus of the book be being an outsider – the theme is started with the teens reading The Outsiders for English class, then watching a movie and the teacher having them write an essay about it. The theme continues on, as Layla stays the outsider among her peers – able to do things, but hindered by brain fog, anxiety, pressure to perform and of course, dyslexia at the root of it all.
An image of the cover of My Name is Layla by Reyna Marder Gentin, on a PocketBook Color e-reader, there are necklaces and candies around it, and it’s placed on several other print books; Photo by AvalinahsBooks
But trouble reading isn’t the only thing Layla is struggling with. Perhaps I related to the book on a deeper level because I too grew up without a dad too, just like Layla. Her father named her, and yet left when she was a baby, and she hasn’t seen him since. She and her brother make their own meals and put themselves to bed, because their mother works hard at the ER to support them both – and she works the night shift.
Layla feels very self-conscious about it, and sees the grass greener on every garden on her neighbourhood – whose mom makes them dinner when Layla defrosts a microwave dinner herself, whose parents take them to school when Layla walks alone, whose mother goes shopping with her daughter when Layla only gets cast-offs and can’t even ask her mother for life advice because she’s either working, or dead-tired after she comes back.
Layla secretly blames her mom for being absent, although she’s the only parent present, and working hard for Layla’s benefit. But you can’t blame a child for wanting to have a normal parent, a normal household – for just wanting them to be there. I thought it was a very realistic depiction of a teenage girl, struggling to understand why her situation is like that. I remember my own struggles at that age, and they were very similar.
This book was great, and I loved it so much. The only drawback which docked a half a star for me was that it stopped just as I got going (the book is quite short, only 140 pages or so.) Layla gets to the point where
I’m always so happy to read yet another indie gem – and My Name is Layla was exactly that. It’s a short, wonderful read – whether you’re a teen or an adult. Greatly recommended!
I thank the author for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.