On the first day of eighth grade, thirteen year-old Layla has a pretty good idea of what’s in store for her–another year of awkward social situations, mediocre grades, and teachers who praise her good behavior but find her academic performance disappointing. Layla feels certain she’s capable of more, but each time she tries to read or write, the words on the page dance and spin, changing partners and leaving her to sit on the sidelines.
This year will be different in ways Layla could never have predicted. Her new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy, senses her potential. When he pushes her to succeed, Layla almost rises to the challenge before making a desperate choice that nearly costs her everything she’s gained. Will she be able to get back on track? And who can she count on to help her?
Reyna Marder Gentin grew up in Great Neck, New York. She attended college and law school at Yale. For many years, she practiced as an appellate attorney with a public defender's office before turning to writing full time. Reyna has studied at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and her work has been published widely online and in print. Her debut novel, UNREASONABLE DOUBTS, was named a finalist for the Women's Fiction Writers Association Star Award in 2019. Her first middle grade novel, MY NAME IS LAYLA, came out in January, 2021, and School Library Journal noted that "Layla's struggles at school and home are authentically depicted, and readers who face their own challenges will relate." Layla won the 2021 gold medal in the Moonbeam Children's Awards in pre-teen fiction. Reyna's latest novel, BOTH ARE TRUE, was published in October, 2021. Nicola Krauss, co-author of THE NANNY DIARIES, called BOTH ARE TRUE a "moving novel that examines what it means to start over--with surprising consequences." Reyna lives with her family in Scarsdale, New York. To learn more, please visit reynamardergentin.com.
I don’t usually read YA but enjoyed Unreasonable Doublts by Reyna Marder Gentin and decided to give My Name is Layla a try. Loved it! Layla is in 8th grade, lives with her single mom and older brother, has trouble in school and often feels less than...This story brings to light the importance of good friends, astute teachers and parental support and unconditional love. Self acceptance is a game changer whether you are young or old and this book is perfect for middle school and up! Full review and author q & a to come on Book Nation by Jen.
My Name is Layla is a wonderful short fiction book written by Gentin - her sophomore book and first young adult/middle grade fiction novel perfect for young teens, most especially those with learning disabilities - in this case our main character Layla suffers from dyslexia.
This story is about thirteen year old Layla as she begins her eight grade, full of anxieties as she hopes for success but once again fails to succeed academically. Fortunately her new English teacher Mr McCarthy sees her potential.
This is a wonderful coming-of-age novel that is about self-discovery and resilience, that also provides a great narrative for young adults going through difficulties and how to positively overcome challenges.
This well written short fiction novel should be available in our libraries and schools. I highly recommend this read for parents and children alike.
Wow! I am a retired teacher, and I have to state I am quite impressed and highly recommend “My Name is Layla” by Reyna Marder Gentin. The genres for this book are young adults, friendship, coming of age, family, and fiction. I appreciate the way Reyna Marder Gentin vividly describes how the school, teachers, parents, friends, and children working together as a team, and emotional support for the young students negotiating their classroom experience. I love the positivity and encouraging attitudes that the author discusses.
Layla is a 13-year-old teenager starting school again. Just like so many other students, she worries, how she will fit in. Her mother is divorced, and a hard-working nurse, working long hours. Her older brother Nick keeps an eye out for her and tries to give encouraging advice. Layla struggles and doesn’t understand why she can’t be “more” or do “more”. Layla has a good friend who does buddy up with her for many assignments, but there is so much stress and insecurity.
The new English teacher does see something in Layla. I loved the example of how the teacher chooses a poem that he thinks is a fit for each student. As an assignment, the student writes their interpretation. Layla finds that she does relate to the poem, and wonders if she can have the courage to do what she has to.
This reminds me of the book “Thank you Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco. This is based on a dyslexic girl and the teacher that stood by her.
Layla has many frustrations, as many students do, and does something that is not appropriate, that almost destroys her year. Layla does find out that with the support of some teachers, friends, and the love and encouragement of her family, that there is hope.
Eighth-grader Layla has crippling self-esteem as she struggles with dyslexia and abandonment by her father.
Fortunately, she has support from her best friend Liza and Sammy, a neighbor boy interested in being more than friends. She also has an amazing English teacher who sees her potential and opens the door to learning disability testing and treatment.
I liked every character and found this spare story ever compelling. My heart broke for Layla, and when she makes a bad choice out of desperation, I felt great compassion, as did her mother and brother who circle ‘round her.
Highly recommended for middle grade/YA readers, especially those with learning disabilities and the ones who love them.
Thanks to author Reyna Marder Gentin and TouchPoint Press for the review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
I liked this, but I was left wanting a little more from a few things.
*Trigger/content warnings in this book for a Harry Potter reference and parental abandonment*
This was really good—I actually thought I was going to give this five stars. Unfortunately, I think this was just a tad too short. I would’ve liked some more about Layla’s friendships. Also, more resolution to the subplot with Layla and her dad. And I especially wish there’d been more about Layla accepting her dyslexia.
All that said, though, I still really enjoyed this. Layla was a wonderful protagonist to read about. I was rooting for her the whole time. My favorite scenes of the books were the ones about Layla’s parents, but maybe I’m biased because I like books that have family themes. I still think this is a great book that many will like and maybe see a bit of themselves in Layla in some way. I know I did.
If you enjoyed Fish in a Tree, you’ll definitely like this! And if you’re looking for a book with a strong protagonist, dyslexic rep, and family themes, then pick this up!
How I read this: Free ebook copy received from author
4.5 stars, rounded to 5
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.
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.
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 she starts solving her problems, but we don’t get to see how she does it – the time just skips to where everything is solved. The switch felt kind of quick and inorganic to me. I wish we had more process, because I truly enjoyed all the characters and also the budding teenage romance that was tentatively forming between Layla and Samuel (also written very well!) But, you know – when you find yourself wishing the book was longer, it simply just means that the book was really good and you want more, right?
Layla, or “munk,” short for chipmunk as her brother calls her, is not looking forward to eighth grade. It’s just that she’s tired of struggling with her grades. She wishes her mom didn’t have to work so many hours, but since “you-know-who” left (aka dad), mom has to work extra hard, so she’s not home much.
This year Layla and her best friend, Liza, have a new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy. At first, he seems like he is picking on Layla a bit, and she pushes back in defiance, but Mr. McCarthy sees through it and helps Layla realize what has been holding her back.
My Name is Layla touches on the struggle of a student with an undiagnosed reading disorder such as dyslexia; their frustration and confusion and being teased for being slow or “stupid” when they are very bright students. An excellent book for middle grade students and their parents as well.
Thank you to @suzyapprovedbooktours and @reynamardergentin for this #gifted copy.
This story of an eighth grade girl with learning difficulties resonated with me as a dyslexic. Layla’s struggles with reading and word recognition were well described. Her home life, friendships and school life were woven into a heart warming tale that was easy to get lost in. Totally enjoyable.
First day of 8th grade should be exciting for Layla, but it just isn't. She's never been the kid who gets new clothes for school, she's never felt like she belongs, and she knows this year won't be any different.
Her English teacher tells her she has potential and it finally makes her feel like maybe this year won't be so bad after all. Until she makes an incredibly bad decision that makes all of the adults in her life question her.
They finally realized that her grades were suffering due to the fact that she had undiagnosed dyslexia. Kind of heartbreaking that it took 8 years of school and a bad decision to figure it out.
Does your child have problems in school? Are you a teacher who notices students having difficulties with reading and focusing? Author Reyna Marder Gentin’s insightful middle grade novel MY NAME IS LAYLA Touch Point Press 2021 explores issues that teens, teachers, and parents should be discussing–– What’s life like for a thirteen-year-old? Brother-sister relationships? Complicated family dynamics? Friendships? What can happen to a child when problems in school get to be too much? This entertaining, fast paced, fictional read of 133 pages looks into the world of learning differences and dyslexia, teaches the reader empathy, and is a wise choice for class reading lists.
Oh, I loved this. Definitely order yours! I was lucky enough to read an ARC, provided by the author (who I know), but nevertheless - I LOVED THIS. I read this with my son, who is in 7th grade and the perfect audience for this book.
Layla is an 8th grade girl who has a best friend, a mother who works nights as an ER nurse, and an older brother who is THE basketball star in the district. She also has an undiagnosed learning disability. Over the course of the book, Layla deals with the appearance of her "missing" father, the first stirrings of romance, a conflict that will test her relationship with her best friend, and the crescendo of her academic struggles. An intuitive English teacher is the first to sense that perhaps there is more to Layla than her poor grades suggest, and when her plummeting self-esteem and fear of acknowledging her failures leads to a disastrous decision, it is Mr. McCarthy who sets her on a path to diagnosis and necessary supports.
It's so easy to say this is just a coming-of-age novel, but it really was so much more. My son described the characters as "distinct and easy to tell apart" and the situations as "relatable." The conversations and language were "realistic" and the book was "one of the better ones." Unfortunately, he didn't stick around to give me a full, in-depth review, but he's a 12 yo boy... you get what you get.
As a parent with two kids with ADHD, I do a lot of reading aloud because it is a good way to keep my kids engaged in books, and therefore I read a LOT of YA / middle grade books. This was truly one of the stronger books we've read in the past year: characters and language were believable, concepts weren't "dumbed down" for young readers but were as complex as they are in real life, and the issues were real, concrete and, in my son's words, relatable.
BUY IT NOW. Seriously. You won't regret it. congratulations, Reyna, on such a gorgeous book for this age group. And their parents ;)
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I was surprised by how much I loved this book. Layla is so relatable and I’m glad I got the chance to read this! There were some parts of the book that had me in tears. I understood her pain and wanted someone else to understand too.
One thing I will say is that the synopsis makes it seem like the relationship between her and her teacher would be a bit more developed. I’m happy with the way everything went with the book, but it would have been nice to have had their relationship fleshed out a little more.
Wonderful coming of age story about an 8th grader named Layla. This was a short read and as Layla is in her 8th grade year, she makes a bad decision in school and her parent and teachers begin to worry. She was finally discovered to have a learning disability, dyslexia. This is a great book for middle schoolers to parents as it explores self realization and acceptance.
“My Name Is Layla” is a beautiful middle-grade novel that talks about facing your troubles and boosting your confidence with the help of family and friends.
The author did a beautiful job in narrating the tale. As someone who had trouble in school fitting in and feeling inferior to others, I could very much relate to Layla. She does not look forward to studies because she figures she won’t excel in any of them. I enjoyed how the author tackled various issues that middle-graders go through as they progress in school and the multiple outlets to resolve them.
Moreover, the author also wrote the supporting characters nicely. Layla has a close-knit of friends with Liza and Sammy, who support her no matter what. Liza and Sammy shine on their own, and it was beautiful to see how far they would go to protect her. Similarly, even Nick adds nicely to the storyline, where we see him facing his demons when he faces the injury. In particular, I would have loved if the author had provided a resolution on Nick’s storyline, as the plot focused mainly on Layla.
Mr. McCarthy was another favorite of mine. And I wished I had a teacher like him when I was in school. He makes the subjects exciting, and I felt like reading a few works by Robert Frost after reading this tale. He takes time to get to know the student’s personalities. And he blends the teaching style that would benefit them. I think this is a beautiful approach and hope more teachers follow the same.
Overall, “My Name Is Layla” is a short and sweet novel that I feel a reader of any age would enjoy and appreciate.
It’s the first day of eighth grade and Layla is dreading it. She’s certain the year will be no different from all the rest. She knows she won’t be able to keep up, she’ll be a “C” student even though she tries her best and worst of all, she knows she’ll disappoint her mom once again at parent teacher conferences. On top of that, her family is not the one she dreams about - two parents, dinner together every night and a mom who always buys a first day of school outfit for her. Instead, she has a mom who’s an emergency room nurse who works night shifts 7 - 7, leaving Layla and her high school senior brother on their own most nights and a nonexistent dad. She does have a best friend who is extremely patient, helpful and thoughtful, a brother who believes in her and an English teacher who is certain Layla has great potential.
Layla isn’t so sure about that. She thinks “there’s a huge disconnect between who I know I am deep down, and the girl everyone sees. As if there’s this really smart kid inside me, trapped desperate to get out and prove herself to the world”, but when she reads her assignments, the words “hop around … refusing to stay still so I can get a grip on what they mean”. So that leads to a huge pile of papers on the floor of her locker, mostly marked with Cs ready for her mom to see at conferences.
My heart went out to Layla as she helps us to understand the world of someone diagnosed with dyslexia. One would hope her disability would have been recognized before eighth grade, but because she’s quiet, respectful and kind, it was easy for her to be overlooked. Thankfully that changed after she acted out on her frustration and her shame, and her caring teacher and principal, instead of punishing her, offered support and a possible solution for her learning disability.
This is a story for grades 4+, as well as parents of students with learning disabilities. It’s a book that needs to be in every elementary and middle school library, as well as in counselor’s offices. It’s available on Amazon.
✏️ My Name Is Layla ✏️ By Reyna Marder Gentin Published: January 2021
Layla is beginning her 8th grade year. For some students it’s exciting, but for Layla it’s just another year to keep her head above water. Being a teenager is hard, but struggling in school and family problems at home make it that much harder. Layla knows she has a lot of potential, but her reading and writing are a jumbled mess. It always takes her longer than others to complete assignments, but she has no idea why. Not until a new teacher at the school decides to take a chance. This will change everything.
I devoured this book. It’s a great read, but also sad in a way because it shows the real struggle and lack of understanding and information on dyslexia in our community and schools. Her teachers never took the time to figure it out, and honestly her parents were busy trying to juggle work, kids, finances etc. As a Speech Pathologist, this book hits home. No child is “not smart”. They all just have different ways of showing it. It’s up to educators, parents, and people like myself to help them see their full potential. They should never have to doubt they have what it takes. Learning difficulties are very common, but for some reason people shy away from dyslexia. Maybe they don’t have the information they need, maybe they just aren’t sure what to do. I hope this changes soon. I am very thankful for personal friends and others that are advocates in helping to spread awareness.
Thank you for my gifted copy in return for an honest review
It has been a long time since I read a middle grade novel. I am so glad I picked this one up.
Thank you Suzy Approved Book Tours and Reyna Marder Gentin for a copy of this novel.
My Name is Layla follows an eighth grader as she navigates school and life. Layla is pretty sure her year will consist of awkward situations, average grades, and teachers who praise her for great behavior. But one thing the teachers do not praise: her academic performance. When Layla tries to read or write, the words swirl around the page making it hard for her to decipher what is going on. Then enters her teacher, Mr. McCarthy, who teaches her to believe in her abilities and figures out what will make Layla much more successful.
What a poignant story. As a teacher, I would recommend this reading for anyone in this age range. All libraries and classrooms should have a copy. The story dives into learning disabilities with such tender care and bravery as Layla starts feeling more confident. This story is uplifting and honest and should be required reading for any young person.
The book is narrated by Layla, a thirteen year old girl living with her single mother and older brother. In addition to the usual middle school aggravations (friends, boys, popularity), Layla is doing poorly in school, and not for lack of trying. She knows she’s not stupid and she puts in the effort but to no avail. Her English teacher sees her potential, suspects a learning disorder and tries to help, but Layla’s so frustrated she ends up doing something desperate that gets her in trouble. I quickly found myself rooting for Layla. Her voice is strong and her character well-developed and believable. The book is well plotted and has some hair-raising moments and touching ones as well. A couple of times I teared up when I felt Layla’s pain. Any parent with a middle school child should read this book and then pass it on to their kids. Layla is a wonderful and inspiring character. I hope Reyna Gentin is working on another Layla book. This reader is hoping for more.
Hitting right in the middle school hard-to-read spot, My Name is Layla is the story of 12-year-old Layla, an eighth grader living with her single mother and older brother, who has a secret: she has a hard time reading. The letters move on the page; she has to fight to focus, and it takes longer than the turnaround time to complete an assignment. When a new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy, sees her potential, Layla is terrified: she can’t have promise, can she? The teacher has to be imagining things! As parent-teacher conferences draw closer, Layla’s fear over her grades and her learning struggles being discovered, and she makes a choice that has big repercussions for herself, her family, and her relationship with her best friend. My Name is Layla is a realistic portrayal of a young woman living with dyslexia. Supporting characters all feel real, with back stories and realized lives off-page. Good for YA collections and middle school collections.
Layla is an eighth grader, she has self esteem issues from her struggle with dyslexia and her father abandoning her. She worries she won’t even be a grade C student even if she studies and tries her best, and she knows her mom will be disappointed after attending her parent teacher conferences and hearing her grades. Her mom works non stop as a nurse in the emergency room, which leaves Layla and her older brother alone most nights. Luckily she has a best friend Liza who is so patient with her and her brother believes in her along with her new English teacher Mr. McCarthy who sees the potential in Layla. Layla now has a possible romance with the Sammy who lives across the street who has the family she dreams of. Every-time she looks down at her schoolwork all she’s sees are words that move around so she just tosses the work into her locker that lead to piles of schoolwork work with C’s. On the outside Layla puts on a face that she’s ok and her teachers praise her good behavior but her academic performance in school needs to improve. So inside she’s crying for help. Soon her cry for help and frustration leads to a devastating consequence one that will cause her to face her disability head on. This book is the perfect book for middle schoolers, it’s narrated by Layla which makes it more personal. My heart broke for Layla, as a parent of a child with dyslexia I understand her frustration after seeing it written all over my sons face. It frustrates me as a parent because here in Michigan if you can’t read at a certain level you can’t move to fourth grade, which puts a lot of stress on children at a young age especially children that have a disability and are trying everyday. I give this book five stars. Do you suffer from dyslexia?
I want to thank author @reynamardergentin for reaching out to me and sending a review copy.
I read this in one sitting, through breakfast because Layla wouldn't let go of my heart. This book is emphaticic, warm, insightful and so real. Perfectly encapsulating the life of 8th grader Layla, her very real family, academic challenges, and the complex dynamics of friendship.
It will hit a nerve with young readers about Layla's challenges and how a lot of love, kindness and empathy can help you succeed. Layla is like any 13 year old girl but only needs a little push in the right direction to make her realize how special she is.
I loved how this book dealt with the issue of learning disabilities and that with an insightful teacher, Layla blossomed academically.
I received a copy of “My Name is Layla” from the author asking for my honest thoughts. Since I do not read a lot of middle school books, I am hesitant to give it a rating.
This is Layla’s story as she navigates the eighth grade while dealing with undiagnosed dyslexia. She knows she has difficulty attending in class and reading is a chore.. Words become jumbled and letters hop around on the page. She is convinced she is just not one of the smart ones until an empathic and attentive teacher believes there is more going on than academic ability. Ms Gentin does a lovely job of weaving in Layla’s life outside of school giving her story greater depth and dimension.
“My Name is Layla”, would be a good read to begin a discussion on learning disabilities, empathy, patience and loyalty. Though simplistic, there is plenty of “food for thought” in this one for teachers as well.
Thank you Reyna Marder Gentin for sharing your writing with me.
This was my first read by this author, Reyna Marder Gentin, and when I opened the ebook, I didn't know what to expect. This is a very unique, and a great YA book. It touched my heart in so many ways as I thought of all the children and young people out there who are so very smart, but who have unrecognized learning abilities and/or disabilities. There are so many things that children often can't verbalize, and it takes the Mr. McCarthy's in this world to recognize the variety of different needs of children. Layla had dyslexia and didn't know it; however there are so many other learning differences, that when recognized, a struggling student can leap ahead and achieve great things.
This book was wonderful. I wanted to read this book mostly as a parent, but it was easily relatable as I looked back at my own teen years. Layla is in eighth grade and learning to navigate her way through middle school and life with the support of her brother and mother. Layla faces quite a bit of challenges during this short 150 page book. It was interesting to hear her thoughts, reasoning and to see things from her own point of view.
I know as a mom I am terrified of my kiddos hitting the teen years. I really enjoyed Layla’s perspective in this novel. Check it out to reminisce your teen years, to gain insight as a parent or for your own kids.
Thank you so much to the author, @reynamardergentin for a #gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What a wonderful book! Open, clear-sighted, fair-minded, compassionate Layla, a bit down on herself but game, resilient and brave, captivated me from page one. I rooted for her as she struggled in school and at home with issues that felt particular, poignant and real, and friends and family members who were flawed, each in his or her own way, but good at heart. The book manages to be true to life and at the same time tender-hearted and hopeful: a winning combination. I was riveted throughout the quick, gripping read — and satisfied and uplifted after I finished. .
This is a short, quick read at only 140 pages. I was able to read it in one sitting.
It’s YA, but it’s the kind of book that I think parents - especially parents of teens - may want to pick up every once in a while just to remember what being a teenager can feel like.
Layla is 13; she lives with her single mom and her popular brother. She has an undiagnosed learning disability, is socially awkward and dealing with a lot of family stress. Fortunately, her brother is always there for her and she has a wonderful teacher, Mr. McCarthy, who recognizes Layla’s potential and helps her to believe in herself.
This book did a great job of showing the pressures an eighth grader feels and how help can come from places you least expect. I loved that this book showed hope and courage after a teen made poor choices.
Layla is in eighth grade and really struggling in school. From what I gathered, I think Layla has dyslexia but the book does not discuss a formal diagnosis. Before parent teacher conferences, Layla does something really impulsive that only makes things worse This was a short, easy read. This book is labeled for middle grade and the upper end of that age group will enjoy this book most! I think many kids will be able to identify with Layla. I loved that I could read this in one sitting, but the story left me with questions and wanting a little more. Thank you @suzyapprovedbooktours for sharing this copy with me!
Reyna Marder Gentin did a great job with this book! The focus on Layla's dyslexia, anxiety, and other problems felt so real. I adored Layla's interactions with her friends and her English teacher Mr. McCarthy. I almost cried multiple times because I could just feel Layla's guilt, confusion, and sorrow. A quick story with such a true and raw message. Only problem I had was that sometimes the writing felt a bit too simple and childish. Other than that, I would recommended this book to anyone!
My Name is Layla is a heartbreakingly poignant story of a young teenaged girl who makes a start on finding her place in her family and her friendships, while coming to terms with her difficulties in middle school. Reyna Marder Gentin skillfully weaves a tale of courage and resilience that will resonate with young readers, especially those facing learning challenges, and it can easily be read in one sitting.