The Boy Who Steals Houses – C.G. Drews – Orchard Books – Published 4 April 2019
Can two broken boys find their perfect home?
Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie.
But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.
The Boy Who Steals Houses is an emotionally devastating, heartbreaking YA contemporary. Seriously. Pack tissues. Yet, also in parts funny and with characters who are totally loveable, The Boy Who Steals Houses is sure to steal your heart.
Sammy Lou steals houses. It’s the only way he can stay off the streets each night, look after his older brother and feel some small part of being home, which he craves so much. But when Sammy steals a house that is occupied and is still there when the owners return, Sammy is surprised to find himself swept up in the big, loud and slightly crazy family who lives there. But presented for the first time with everything he has ever wanted, Sammy isn’t sure he can shake his past which is about to catch up with him.
I’ve been a fan of C.G Drew’s reviews for a long time, so when I heard she was turning to writing books, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of her work. While I have yet to read her debut title, I was so pleased to be offered a chance to read and review her second book, The Boy Who Steals Houses. I loved it and admire the beauty with which she writes. And yet. While I was reading this book I did often wonder if its sole purpose was to tear out my heart and destroy my soul, trampling them both into the ground, leaving me desolate and without hope. Sammy had my heart right from page one. His story of abuse and neglect, his resilience and the ways in which he strives to care for his brother is incredibly moving. No detail is spared and the emotions come alive off the page. Thankfully, there are a few lighthearted moments spread throughout the story and a hopeful ending to balance out the sad bits.
Sammy is a complex protagonist. By no means perfect, he has a number of major struggles and bad habits he needs to work on. Positioned inside his head, readers have no choice but to love him (I did). While he is conflicted about the choices he makes, he is good at justifying the bad things he has done and vilifying all the adults in his world (some deservedly so), which raises question of morality and whether the reasons for the crime outweigh the consequences. Sammy is also conflicted about how he feels about his brother. He loves him, protects him, yet also can’t help but resent him at times for the ways in which he cannot reciprocate emotions or the care and protection Sammy needs in return.
I loved the family Sammy falls in with. Loved how loud, caring and busy there were. They bring a bit of much needed hope and light to both the story and Sammy’s world. While they each, and perhaps especially Moxie-who we readers get to know best-have a story to tell, The Boy Who Steals Houses remains solely Sammy’s story and details about Moxie or her family’s grief are never the focus of the book.
The Boy Who Steals Houses is a complex and darkly emotional story about a young boy facing homelessness, abuse, and the consequences of his violent actions and the importance of support, family and belonging.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Abuse, neglect, family, homelessness, brothers, grief, physical violence, romance, belonging.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Strong, frequent and detailed descriptions of violence, physical abuse of children, punching and fights. Vague sexual references. Occasional coarse language, sh** (13), as***** (3), pi** (4). References to theft and drugs.
Published: 4 April 2019 by Orchard Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 512 pages.