Cover Image: Find Layla

Find Layla

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I read Find Layla in one sitting. It is a short read, but the subject matter is pretty heavy as it deals with abuse, neglect, and bullying; however, I just couldn't stop reading. It is both heartbreaking and beautiful. I enjoyed Elison's writing style. She also presents this story in a very realistic way. The ending did feel a bit rushed, but it served its purpose and I may have cried a bit.

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Thank you to NetGalley, Skyscape, and Meg Elison for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I went into this one knowing very little, and I was blown away. This is a story where you feel like this can't happen in real life, and then are heart-breaking to remind yourself that that things like this probably happen all the time. But hey, that's life.

Layla is a 14 year old who spends most of her time taking care of her annoying little brother, Andy, and trying to decide why she's best friend with Kristi, who seems to care more about how to get the perfect selfie than anything else. This may sound like a typical teenage girl's life, but trust me - Layla is far from typical. Her home - her biome - is far from happy. The door is broken, so the kids need to come and go via a window, the bathroom sink leaks to the point that the floor is flooded regularly if someone doesn't suction water from the bucket to the bathtub, and mould and mushrooms sprout from everywhere - including Andy's dresser drawers. Their mother is other completely non-functioning or on a cleaning frenzy and screaming at the kids about how they just can't help out. Layla can't even get away from this at school, as kids can be cruel and are ready to comment on her unwashed clothes and hair, her smell or how quickly she eats her lunch. Things seem like they might be getting a little better when Kirsti's mom, Bette, offers to take her shopping for some clothes under the guise of how much she misses shopping with Kirsti; but unfortunately, things begin to spiral out of control.

Elison does an amazing job for making us connect with Layla without feeling flat out pity, one of the few things Layla cannot stand. Having had it be her and Andy against the world for so long, Layla is unsure how to take these kind moments and not keep an eye out for when the rug will be pulled out from under her. Her life is tough, but Layla finds way to take her story and try to find and provide hope to those who have been in her spot.

This is a middle grade book that many people, including this 30-something adult, can enjoy and devour in quick time.

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♡Thank you to NetGalley and Skyscape for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.♡

Woow, this book was so hard to read. It deals with so many heartbreaking situations like abuse, cyberbullying, poorness, etc.

Layla lives in a very unstable home. She is neglected by her mother. She always has to take care of her little brother, Andy. She is just 14. She's just a child. Sometimes life is unfair and Layla knows tha but, that's her life and she has to deal with it.

This novel talks about some real issues that many children live every day. Sometimes we don't see those issues until it's too late. That happens in this book. Until everything got complicated, everyone looked at Layla's issues.

I really loved this story. I liked the way the author shined in real issues. And her handwriting was amazing.
This book is so emotional and real. And for that only reason I'm so happy to had found this amazing story.


If I have to be honest, the end was just perfect. So sad, but perfect. Not always we have a fairytale story with a very happy ending. I'm happy for Andy's future life. He deserves it. And I know Layla is gonna reach everything she wants.
Because that's life.

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Heartbreaking story of abuse, neglect, and extreme bullying. Layla and her younger brother live in horrible conditions. With a mother who sometimes doesn’t come home for extended periods of time, leaving the kids without food or even electricity sometimes, Layla is forced to take care of her brother and herself. Beautifully written story of hope and survival in the most dire of circumstances. This story is impossible to put even as it makes you cry. Highly recommended.

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I have somewhat mixed feeling about this book. Overall it was well written and it dealt with heartbreaking conditions and situations well. However the pacing was off for me. The beginning had very little action while the ending felt rushed and unfinished. I wanted more out of the ending. Also there were some things that seemed off or unrealistic (her mom showing up at school, Bette’s sudden interest, some of the teen interaction). Definitely a worthwhile, and quick, read.

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Wow. This book hit me hard. It was incredibly well written and handled the sensitive subject matter. This book is surprisingly heartwarming but also soul destroying, and I really wanted to give Layla a massive hug by the end of it all. I found the way they integrated social media/technology with the narrative, and how Layla's perspective was portrayed made her decisions understandable even when they didn't make objective sense. This book sucked me in and was a refreshing read.

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The premise is exactly that: a girl and her little brother who live in a very unstable environment, with an even more unstable mother whose only purpose in the story is to be a terrible person that is clearly in no condition to raise children. I did think that the message of this book was very evident and I was able to sympathize with Layla towards the end. However, I struggled a lot with this book, and therefore it took longer for me to finish it even though it’s actually a really short novel.

The writing was very good: there were some remarkable quotes that I found made Layla’s train of thought more interesting. The pacing, though, was a little off, and I think it had to do with the fact that, even though this book is less than 200 pages long, nothing much happens in the first half. It’s like we get this unnecessary long setting that makes it extra clear that Layla and her little brother live in unacceptable conditions and that they are basically on their own most of the time, Layla having to take care of Andy while also dealing with her own problems at school. Then, suddenly, a lot of things start happening at once, and not in the way that you’d expect.

Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention, but the blurb made me believe that the video situation would be what triggered the conflict, which ended up being the other way around, and that disappointed me a little. Still, the second half of the book was more dynamic and I enjoyed the commentary on adoption and foster families. Layla’s realistic views on what was happening to her were also really sad to read, but I did like the way she was so aware of everything and everyone around her. I also loved how her feelings were represented: after all, even if she was a really intelligent and clever girl, she was still just that: a girl. Completely alone and with no people she could trust. The way the author described those feelings of fear and uncertainty as an octopus was simply great.

One of the things I didn’t like was, sadly, Layla herself. I expected her personality to be cold or indifferent, even pessimistic, given her personal situation, but almost as soon as the book starts, we see that she has a really mean way of looking down at other kids, and particularly girls. I don’t like girl hate and I honestly think it’s the worst kind of trait a character can have, so I found it really hard to care for her after reading her thoughts on her girl classmates, especially since she thought they were stupid for talking about pubic hair and such, when she herself mentions she hadn’t known about the period until recently. I had the impression that she displayed certain qualities that made her sort of a not-like-other-girls type of character, but that really didn’t match her because she definitely wanted to be like those other normal girls.
There were other things she did that just did not sit well with me, and they were not justifiable despite Layla’s circumstances, but the way they were narrated made it look as if they were.
Another thing I thought was a little off was Bette and her obsession with Layla. I get that, as a parent herself, she wanted to look out for her and help her, but sometimes it was as if she really went too far buying her things or offering her to go out, when they were not that close. It just felt too forced and even made me a little uncomfortable, more so because, from Layla’s point of view, we could see that she was not ok with the attention.

Then, there’s also that moment when Layla’s mother burst into the school to yell at her.That was so RANDOM. How did she even get in without anyone questioning her? The teachers had never seen her before so they didn’t know her, there was no way they would just let a strange mad woman enter a school just like that. Weird.

I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted, but I did appreciate that the ending wasn’t anything fairytale-esque. When it came to Layla’s fate, I was pleased with the way things wrapped up, because they were not perfect by any means, but they still left me satisfied. Even if this story did not do much for me, I think the author has a very nice way with words and I’m interested in reading more of their work in the future.

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Review by Lisa Pineo

*I received this eARC from Skyscape via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My ratings: * I hated it ** It was okay *** I liked it **** Really good ***** Great
TW (trigger warnings): family violence, sexual predator, bullying, CPS child removal and foster care, parental neglect, inhabitable living conditions, child endangerment, undiagnosed mental illness

This completely absorbing YA novel by Meg Elison kept me entranced until the realistic (instead of happy) ending. 5 stars

Description from the publisher:
"Underprivileged and keenly self-aware, SoCal fourteen-year-old Layla Bailey isn’t used to being noticed. Except by mean girls who tweet about her ragged appearance. All she wants to do is indulge in her love of science, protect her vulnerable younger brother, and steer clear of her unstable mother.
Then a school competition calls for a biome. Layla chooses her own home, a hostile ecosystem of indoor fungi and secret shame. With a borrowed video camera, she captures it all. The mushrooms growing in her brother’s dresser. The black mold blooming up the apartment walls. The unmentionable things living in the dead fridge. All the inevitable exotic toxins that are Layla’s life. Then the video goes viral.
When Child Protective Services comes to call, Layla loses her family and her home. Defiant, she must face her bullies and friends alike, on her own. Unafraid at last of being seen, Layla accepts the mortifying reality of visibility. Now she has to figure out how to stay whole and stand behind the truth she has shown the world."

I hate saying I loved this book since it had such heartbreaking issues for children (or anyone) to deal with. What I mean is the writing and subject matter was totally engrossing and I didn't want to put "Find Layla" down until end. There are many trigger warnings at the beginning of this review. This book covers so many things that a neglected, abused, poor young girl living in a home that should have been condemned years ago would deal with. She does this with a “that's life” attitude that you would rarely see in anyone but is still totally believable. She is totally adaptable to her circumstances but also thinks she isn't changeable at all and wouldn't be able to live in any “normal” situation. With the mind of a scientist and shrewdness of someone who's had to fight to live for most of her life, Layla examines her “biome” and details it with unflinching honesty to the reader. She isn't proud of her life but bravely faces hit after hit as the come. Wonderfully fleshed out characters and well-detailed surroundings give this book 5 stars for me. Recommended to anyone who can handle all the hardships and pain the character goes through.

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WARNING: This review contains spoilers.

“Find Layla” is a young adult book centered around a teenager named Layla, who is neglected by her mother, and deals with bullying at school and online. Later on in the story, a video that she posts ends up going viral, which results in CPS (Child Protective Services) learning about the situation that she and her younger brother are in at home.

I thought that this story was great. I loved how it shined a light on very serious issues, and while it was a very emotional and heartbreaking book to read, I still loved it.

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I read Find Layla in one sitting. It's not an easy read as it deals with topics such as abuse, neglect, and bullying but I just couldn't stop reading and it helps that it is relatively short. It is heart breaking and the ending made me cry. Layla is a strong character but I wish we got a little more. The ending felt a bit rushed and some of the plot didn't make much sense but overall, I really enjoyed this story.

Thanks so much to Netgalley and to the publisher for sending me an electronic copy of this book.

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plot: 14-year-old layla lives in an unstable home with her little brother. when someone finally realises that her mother is abusive, their future seems unsure.

4/5🌟: okay this was heartbreaking. it definitely gave me 'the fosters' vibes for a younger audience. i would like to hug and send my love to every kid out there, who's struggling in an abusive home. while this book was super educative, it could be triggering for some. there's a lot of bullying going on in lyla's high school life for not having access to basic hygiene. her relationship with her mother is basically non-existent and their home is full of mold. she has to take care of her brother all alone. the upsetting part is that this mirrors real life for some. that's why i think learning and reading more about children in abusive homes and how they can get help is crucial. i also loved that there was no love story mixed in between, there was no need for that. the only thing i didn't enjoy that much was the focus on social media making lyla famous for something later on in the book. while everything else felt very realistic, this unfortunately stood out negatively to me..

thanks to netgalley i received an early digital access copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

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Trigger warning: It deals with heavy topics such as child-neglect and emotional abuse and bullying.
This book is an emotional rollercoaster. In the beginning, I did not know what I was getting into and suspected (prejudged really) it would be the typical cliché story about a sarcastic girl with a toxic family. I could not have been more wrong.
It was obscure enough in the beginning that it held my attention even if I was going through a mild reading slump. Her nerdy and obsessive thoughts about bacteria and microbes (in retrospect, clearly a coping mechanism) were really good and it provided some sort of dark comic relief.
Layla’s interaction with her peers and adults is typical and realistic. I found myself identifying with some of the situations the protagonist suffers. Friendships at that age are immature and possessive, children care about each other and, ironically, cannot help but hurt others because of it. It also brings to light how even if friendships are strong, many do not withstand hardships (due to its immaturity).
Bullying can seem quite over the top but it is the sad reality that many adolescents and teenagers go through in their formative years. The lack of resolution in this book of this hurtful actions shows how there is never a solution or cure for the wounds it creates.
This story is a continuum of evidence that shows how many of the sayings and studies try to tell us how a child’s upbringing and the parent’s behaviour can affect the physical and emotional their lives. Most of the time it is a grey area. Nonetheless, some have to deal with adult problems and lose their childhood over them. Their futures are as gloomy as they get, but there is always hope… Everyone can have children but not everyone can be a parent.
I do not know if it is the fact that I come from a single-parent somewhat toxic family or I am just an emotional mess, but it definitely struck a chord with me. I would not recommend it if you are soft-hearted.

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I found this a heartbreaking read, with a strong witty clever character at the core. This was not a light read but a very telling coming of age story with neglect heartbreak and bullying. Overall I really enjoyed this fast paced read and I want to hear more from Layla in the future!

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to read this great book

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Trigger Warning: child abuse

Find Layla by Meg Elison is a story of a 14 year old Layla Bailey, who lives amongst various biomes with an adorable vampire-toothed little brother and an abusive, neglectful mom. Not only is her life at home horrible, she is a subject of bullying at school, and her only best friend Kristi hardly can relate with Layla's struggles. Despite her extreme living conditions, Layla excels in school and holds a maturity no teenager would have. She raises her little brother after all. However, one biology project video goes viral and turns her life upside down, for better or for worse. The story follows Layla single handedly navigate through these difficulties and stands against everyone the world.

A story that will make you rethink your idealistic values and perspectives.


--> Layla. Strong, resilient, nurturing. You can't not fall in love with her character, and hence, the book.
--> Emotional rollercoaster
--> Powerful message
--> Very easy to read.
--> Crisp and short, takes only a few hours.
--> The perspective of an underprivileged child in extreme circumstances. Something we don't see often in such detail.


--> Sad ending , but sometimes you need that in a book to make you see the world differently.

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Great book! I really loved the writing style, creativity, and metaphors. This is a really good and quick read.

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A. poignant, coming of age story of an intelligent and witty, science geek girl called LAYLA.

Layla is our nerdy quintessential 14 year old. I loved her witty remarks throughout the story. She doesn't know how to do makeup so she says, "she's allergic" to it.
Poor Layla, doesn't have a "HOME SWEET HOME" , she is bitten by poverty and lives in the most horrible and squalid conditions ( reading about it made me feel grateful and blessed for what I have), her father isn't in the picture anymore and the mother is a train wreck of a woman herself. She takes care of her younger brother as the mother isn't really there for them most of the days.

At school she has to deal with MEAN GIRLS who bully and pick on her and at home she has to play the role of an adult. Life can be hard for our young adults but playing MOM and figuring out how to get food on a plate and all that stuff can be quite a task.

This book is fast paced, witty and very sad too. It was a decent read but I wished I liked it more than just "okay". It is great for a beach or an inflight read or even to drive you out of your reading slump.

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Where do I even begin? This book is the only book in a long time that made me tear up. Layla was the strongest female character in a book I've ever read about. Her stoicism and strength was inspiring. Her reality was grim and desperate but she was unwavering and thoughtful. It was such an incredible journey to be taken on and I can't thank Meg Elison for writing this masterpiece enough. It was beautiful.

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Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of Find Layla via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Find Layla's core story and writing are generally well done and I was hooked from beginning to end, but a few things were just so unrealistic that I got pulled out of the story. A lot of the other character's decisions seem to happen at whim and the way the 14 year old characters spoke to each other felt really off. Having 14 year old characters sound 'cooler' and 'smarter' than their age level is something really common in middle grade, but considering the level of swearing in this I doubt it'll be targeted at that audience so it just made the writing occasionally sound really cringy.

The ending is also really really rapid fire. For a story about two kids in a bad home situation I was hoping the reaction of CPS and their foster families would be more highlighted but we spend a lot of time on Layla's random school interactions then speed through that ending which I really thought was a shame. This book is really short and could have definitely benefited by another 30 or so pages

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This book is about Layla, a 14 year old girl who loves science and takes care of her 6 year old brother. When I read the synopsis of this book, I was intrigued right away as it was described as a coming of age novel.

I finished this ebook in 2 days because I was gripped by it. Layla, for me is a level head girl who have experienced so much at a young age that she reacts to everything that happens around her with a shrug. “That’s life”, she’ll always say.

The author was able to make me feel everything, all throughout the book, it’s like I’m watching everything firsthand, maybe that’s why I can’t put this book down. It has moments where I smiled and chuckled a bit, but 20% into the end had me shedding tears while reading.

It’s obvious that she’s smart, she approached everything with her head, very objective. She is honest, but doesn’t show her emotions too much. Throughout this book, I was feeling for her.

I breezed through this but the emotions were high. I’m glad I read this.

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For all the untold stories, for all the hidden tales, there's this book. It was painful and raw and so important, and I can't wait to share it with all the kids I work with who missed out on love in their lives.

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