Review: The Green Indian Problem by Jade Leaf Willetts (2022)

Blurb

Set in the valleys of South Wales at the tail end of Thatcher’s Britain, The
Green Indian Problem is the story of Green, a seven year-old with intelligence
beyond his years – an ordinary boy with an extraordinary problem: everyone
thinks he’s a girl.


Green sets out to try and solve the mystery of his identity, but other issues
keep cropping up – God, Father Christmas, cancer – and one day his best
friend goes missing, leaving a rift in the community and even more
unanswered questions. Dealing with deep themes of friendship, identity, child
abuse and grief, The Green Indian Problem is, at heart, an all-too-real story of
a young boy trying to find out why he’s not like the other boys in his class.


Longlisted for the Bridport Prize (in the Peggy Chapman-Andrews category)

Review

I am a huge fan of indie publisher Renard Press, who published one of my favourite books of last year, This Good Book by Iain Hood. So I was delighted to be asked to be on the blog tour for their latest offering, The Green Indian Problem. Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with a proof copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Green, our narrator, is seven years old at the start of the novel. I have to confess that I sometimes struggle with child narrators; getting the balance between authenticity and readability is very tricky to pull off, and attempts at charming naivety often tip over into just plain annoying. (I’m the same with kids on screen). However, right from the start, I LOVED Green. The author has absolutely nailed the voice – he is engaging, funny, insightful and beautifully empathetic, all while sounding completely realistic as a young child. He has a unique way of looking at the world, cleverly reflected in the short, headed sections which cover everything from ‘Earth’ to ‘Conkers’ to ‘Rambo’ to ‘God.’ The structure works so well, echoing the child’s efforts to understand the world around him and his place in it.

Green’s central dilemma, that everyone sees him as a girl, is handled with poignancy and heart. When certain characters show glimmers of acceptance of who he really is, it feels like a glimpse of a better world, and when Green is denied the chance to express himself, you can feel the hurt and confusion. It’s a really moving story in and of itself, but Green’s identity is not the only plot point by any means. When Michael goes missing, the tone becomes more urgent, and the Green-as-detective sections are tense and thrilling. The setting, too, is woven into the story: Thatcher’s Britain and the difficulties faced by this small Welsh community spill over from the adults’ lives into their children’s.

There is such a subtle, beautiful combination of so many aspects in this book, from the political to the deeply personal, all told through the eyes of one of the most engaging protagonists I’ve come across for a long time. Green is a character who will stay with you, who will make you see the world a little differently, and who may even make you a better person for having spent time with him.

About the Author

Jade Leaf Willetts copyright Scarlett Arthur 2021

Jade Leaf Willetts is a writer from Llanbradach, a strange, beautiful village in South Wales. He writes about extraordinary characters in ordinary worlds and has a penchant for unreliable narrators. The Green Indian Problem, his first novel, was longlisted for the 2020 Bridport Prize in the Peggy Chapman-Andrews category. Jade’s poetry has been published by Empty Mirror, PoV Magazine and Unknown Press. His short story, ‘An Aversion to Popular Amusements’ was shortlisted for the inaugural Janus Literary Prize. He is currently working on a coming of age follow-up to The Green Indian Problem.

Author’s website: https://jadeleafwilletts.com

Purchase Links

Renard Press: https://renardpress.com/books/the-green-indian-problem/

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-green-indian-problem/j-l-willetts/9781913724528

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-green-indian-problem/9781913724528

Blackwells: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/The-Green-Indian-Problem-by-J-L-Willetts-author/9781913724528

3 thoughts on “Review: The Green Indian Problem by Jade Leaf Willetts (2022)

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