“The Boy Who Steals Houses” by C.G. Drews

Thanks to Hachette Children’s Group and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Despite the subject matter this story manages to be very sweet, full of hope, kindness and a (for me, much needed) reminder of the good examples of humanity.

The novel follows Sam, a homeless teen who along with his autistic brother Avery, engages in petty crime to get by. This includes pickpocketing, shoplifting and burglary/squatting aka ‘stealing houses’. Sam and Avery come from a broken home, their mother abandoned them in childhood and their physically abusive father dumped them on an aunt who wanted nothing to do with them.

One evening Sam breaks into a house owned by the eclectic DeLainey family. Assuming tat they are away on holiday, he is more than a little surprised upon waking up the next morning to find them very much present. During his attempt to sneak out he is assumed to be a friend of one of the DeLainey brothers and is soon sucked into the hubub of their lives.

There is a lot to unpack in this novel. The echoes and consequences of Sam and Avery’s childhood abuse carry through to their present and the cycle of crime and violence seems impossible for both of the boys to shake. Avery also suffers from discrimination as a result of his autism and Sam takes on the role of his defender with sometimes tragic results.

The hopelessness of poverty and homelessness is also explored. The brothers feel a desperate need to put down roots and find themselves a home, something which seems eternally out of reach despite Sam ‘stealing’ houses.

The character relationships in the book were one of its real strengths. Moxie, one of the DeLainey siblings, is great fun and the dynamic she has with the rest of her (HUGE) family felt vibrant and real. The romance element of the story was sweet without going overboard and descending into schmaltz or taking over the rest of the story.

The dynamic between Sam and Avery was the most compelling relationship to me. It’s hard not to feel for the two of them and what they have endured. The fierce love that they have for each other was both heartbreaking and touching.

I honestly couldn’t pin down where this story was set. It ‘felt’ like it was based in the UK but the terms for things e.g. “pants”, “bucks” etc made me wonder. I’m guessing Australia maybe? It doesn’t really matter, I was just curious when reading.

Overall, this book is very good if a somewhat tough read at times. Despite the subjecy matter, there is also a great deal of hope and joy to be found in these pages. I will look to share this book with my students when looking at topics relating to Youth Offenders and the Impact of Childhood Poverty and Abuse.

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