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.
The word that kept coming to my mind when reading The Green Indian Problem is ‘gorgeous’. Might be a funny way to describe a book but it really is gorgeous (this might also be a bit of a Welsh thing!). Our protagonist, Green, takes us through the highs, lows, and utter confusion of being 7 and a half, growing up in the South Wales valleys. Not only that, but Green is a boy and everyone is convinced he’s a girl. If life wasn’t complicated enough.
As someone who grew up in an steelworking town not far from the valleys in the late 80s and early 90s, The Green Indian Problem was, in some respects, a return to the wonderful simplicity my own childhood. Watching Fireman Sam and SuperTed in Welsh, never daring to mention Margaret Thatcher, and eating Angel Delight as a treat. However, Green’s story becomes far darker and scarier than any child should know, when he is faced with dealing with grief, unexpected loss and tragedy.
What is truly astounding about this book, however, is Willetts’ ability to convey the simple, clear logic of a small child. Green knows he is a boy, not a girl. For him, it is simple, and why should it be any more complicated than that? Willetts’ writing takes us back to the fundamentals of what it is to be human and to be true to ourselves regardless of social pressure or, quite frankly, straight up bigotry.
The Green Indian Problem is everything. It’s funny, tragic, warm, sad… I’m sure for many it will be relatable on many levels. It truly is an astounding piece of writing and an absolute joy to read. Highly recommended.
Huge thanks to Will from Renard Press for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Will you be reading For The Green Indian Problem? Let me know in the comments below.
Wishing you a bookish week,