Book Review: Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell

Published by Hot Key Books, 2nd February 2014.

Leopold BlueGoodreads Synopsis: Meg Bergman is fifteen and fed up. She lives in a tiny town in rural 1990s South Africa – a hot-bed of traditionalism, racial tension and (in Meg’s eyes) ordinariness. Meg has no friends either, due largely to what the community sees as her mother’s interfering attempts to educate farm workers about AIDS. But one day Xanthe arrives – cool, urban, feisty Xanthe, who for some unknown reason seems to want to hang out with Meg.

Xanthe arrives into Meg’s life like a hurricane, offering her a look at a teenage life she never knew existed. But cracks quickly begin to show in their friendship when Meg’s childhood friend Simon returns from his gap year travels. LEOPOLD BLUE is an emotionally taut and beautifully-written story from a debut author with a mesmerising voice.

My Review: I began Leopold Blue not entirely knowing what it would be about; only knowing that it was centered around a powerful friendship, in 1990’s South Africa. I had heard lots of really amazing things about it, though- so I started with high hopes! I really was quite blown away. Leopold Blue is a poignant and beautifully written debut. It’s captivating and emotional. The book begins with English Meg and her sister, living in a small town in the middle of nowhere, South Africa. Zanthe, rebellious and unique, starts at Meg’s school, and soon Meg realises Zanthe is a person she want to be like, and the two form an unforgettable bond, until things begin to slowly change after the arrival of Meg’s childhood friend.

I really loved the characters. Meg was quite likeable- I enjoyed reading about her, and her friendship complications. She’s a perfect representation of a teenage girl, who’s struggling to find her place. Zanthe is her almost her complete opposite; she’s ruthless, and rebellious, and I think I may have loved her a little more! I guess I liked Zanthe for her personality, though the ending was pretty… Whoa Zanthe Whyyyy??

The setting was the perfect backdrop for the story. The town, despite being too small and boring to Meg, is home to a lot of racial tension. I don’t know much about S.A., especially from the 90’s, but I think Rosie Rowell has definitely captured everything so well! The story and the setting was so vivid in my head. I loved Rosie’s writing- it was so beautiful!

The plot was really interesting. It covers friendship, and family, and has themes of peer pressure. It’s so relevant, to so many teenagers; definitely essential for young adults! I got a really great insight into 1990’s rural S.A., and enjoyed it all. There were some really shocking parts that I definitely wasn’t expecting. I think the main thing that I didn’t really enjoy, was the ending. It was so well written, and I think it was satisfying, but it seemed… abrupt? I wasn’t expecting the book to end like that; although it was a clever place to end the story, I still think I want to hear a lot more!

Overall, Leopold Blue was a really stunning debut, and as it says in the synopsis: Rosie Rowell really does have a mesmerising voice. I loved her writing- it just flowed so well, beautifully and packed with emotion. The characters were brilliant; especially Zanthe… I’m not sure how other people will see her, after certain points, though! Set in an exciting country at a really important time, I can’t recommend this more to every teenager for its themes, and to anybody who’s looking for a next big debut.

My Rating:


I received a copy of Leopold Blue from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell

  1. maya321

    I read Leopold Blue a few days and and agree with you on a lot of points. It wasn’t what I expected but I still really enjoyed it and I loved Rosie Rowell’s portrayals of the relationships between Meg and her family and friend. Both Meg and Xanthe were really interesting characters and I’m looking forward to seeing what the author writes next! Lovely review 😉

  2. Orli :D

    Wow, this sounds brilliant – I feel like we don’t have enough books about this kind of thing, so I might have a look around for this. Wouldn’t it be cool if this author was related to Rainbow Rowell? Just a musing. Sorry.

    1. keithbwalters Post author

      yes! I’ve never read anything set in that time before, unless you count Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter! It touches really interesting subjects too. And OH. That would be very cool- even though I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read a Rainbow Rowell book yet! gah! D:

  3. Amy Bookworm

    Yess, you did review it. I skimread cos I’m a bit weird when it’s not long before I’m going to read it but its super awesome it deserved 4* & its cool Rosie is a debut awesome author… quite a lot these days are. Not saying that means its any less, it’s an amazing thing & we’re spoilt. DEFINITELY going to be reading it soon & then probably will come back & read properly but I wanted to comment now… OK? Yup. That’s it.
    Or is it? Almost forgot. I responded to a comment that, yes, you made last year, on my blog but better late than never. Here’s the post & you can check out that reply if you would like but either way… …waaaay (still echoing), happy reading!


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