Welcome to my stop on the The Green Indian Problem blog tour! Huge thanks to Renard Press for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Renard Press
Publication Date: 30/03/2022
Length: 208 pages
Genre: Fiction | Contemporary Fiction
CW: domestic abuse, drug abuse, child abuse, sexualt assault, death
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.GoodReads
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.
It is rare for an author to capture the voice of a child so authentically and yet, Willetts has done just that through the wonderful narrative voice of Green. The entire novel is from Green’s perspective in the form of his ‘workbook’ – a diary where he writes out his problems to help him solve them. The one he wants to solve the most is: why does everyone think he’s a girl when he’s really a boy? It was impossible not to love Green immediately, he had this wonderful, childish charm and an innocent curiousness about the world around him. He feels much wiser than his 7-and-a-half years, but there are also many times where his age really shows through – a balance that is both amusing and heartbreaking depending on the situation.
Whilst the heart of this story is a child, desperately trying to grasp why no one seems to understand who they truly are – this novel manages to tackle many hard-hitting topics that would usually be considered too ‘confusing’ for children. Using a child narrator to explore these themes was an excellent way for Willetts to challenge the thoughts and perceptions of an adult reader. By simply reframing arguments into a clear, childlike, black and white way you can’t help but wonder why can’t the answer or solution be as easy as Green thinks it should be? Of course, as adults, there are nuances to situations that children won’t understand (eg. why Green’s mum loves Dennis) but there are also many situations where it’s the adults that make it unnecessarily complicated (eg. gender identity). On the surface, it appears to be a simple narrative device, but it’s one that Willetts masterfully uses to craft such a wonderful and emotional story.
Although the chapters are diary entries, they aren’t there just to record what happened on those days, in fact, Green is using his diary as a way to solve problems he faces in his life. By using the diary in this way, it really helps with the pacing of the novel. I really enjoyed the balance of the smaller problems and the larger problems, as the novel never felt so dramatic to the point of being inauthentic. Everything was balanced, and presented, in a way that felt believable, even if Green was over exaggerating some things in the way children do whether purposefully or not. As I mentioned, this novel tackles some very hard-hitting topics, but even the serious incident which occurs, later on, doesn’t feel totally unexpected or out of place, especially when you reflect as an adult reader rather than through the eyes of Green.
Overall, there’s so much I could still say about this book, I haven’t even delved into the complexities of families and adult relationships (which are brutally explored) or how the dramatically varied sentence structure further lends itself to be even more convincing to be the diary of a child. However, if I don’t stop soon, my review will end up being longer than the novel. The Green Indian Problem is a beautiful exploration of a child learning who they truly are (or, rather, their quest to make the world see them for who they really are) as well as a gripping family drama with a hint of detective work. I’m so happy that Willetts is already writing a coming-of-age sequel as I desperately want to see how Green continues to develop.
About the Author
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.