The Boy Who Steals Houses blurb:
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.
You know when you read a story sometimes, how it just resonates so deeply with you. Not because you have shared experiences with the character, but because you can understand their pain without ever having had to experience their grief. When the author has painted such a vibrant, all-encompassing picture, that you only need to close your eyes and you are standing in the character’s shoes, knowing their motivations. THAT is what reading The Boy Who Steals Houses is like.
Look, I will freely admit that I am a crier (an ugly crier) when I read. I would take a selfie to prove it except I have a zit on my chin and my blue hair is really washed out right now (I need fresh colour… and probably to change shampoos). And I might cry more often when I read contemporary (although, I cry my fair share while reading fantasy and sci-fi as well) because it’s usually made up of broken boys and sharp girls, and others who are alternating between marshmallowness and sweet sticky melted redskins, and glittering shards of glass and razors. And their pain can be my pain, and I welcome it. I would take that burden for them.
But THIS BOOK was like getting sucker punched in the gut, without ever being able to catch your breath again. Like, once you started crying, you just couldn’t stop.
Let’s talk about the storyline. *cue more tears* Two brothers, Sammy and Avery, have had a super tough childhood. I am fortunate. I come from a loving home, where I knew that both of my parents loved me. They were tough at times, but as an adult, I can see that they did their best and I absolutely respect them. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering that Sammy and Avery experienced when they were young. Particularly as Avery has autism, which no one seemed to care about, with the exception of Sammy – Avery’s younger brother. I wrote myself three sticky tabs while reading this book, and the first one says:
The guilt at such a young age (7) is horrifying. You should be able to be a kid!! This is too much responsibility.
And it is! It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch this story unfold, as you are drip fed pieces of their tragic past, pieces that make up the reasons and choices that brought them to where they are today. Today being Sammy stealing houses and hearts, and pretending he has a family; and Avery stealing cars and god-knows-what, and pretending he can be some twisted version of someone else’s ‘normal’. This story is as beautiful as it is twisted, and as heartbreaking as it is hopeful.
And then there are the characters. Man, if you thought Beck had it tough, you really need to meet Sammy Lou. Also, I’m trying not to compare them, but it’s really hard because they’re so similar, but also starkly different.
Sammy Lou is all sharp angles, swinging arms and scraped knuckles, but it’s in defense of the people he loves. He’s overly protective, and while his heart may be in the right place, he doesn’t understand that violence doesn’t solve anything. He’s also fifteen and doesn’t have any role models. His family have either given up or left him. But he’s also soft and kind and understanding, looking after and knowing Avery’s moods and what he needs, despite being the younger brother. He’s had to grow up way too fast.
Moxie is one of the De Lainey’s, the family that Sam tries to steal. (Well, he tries to steal their house first.) Moxie is fierce scowling, unshed tears, and rainbows of ribbons and thread. She’s an impending fashion designer, using upcycling as her method of making clothes (if you don’t know how much the textile industry is killing the world, I highly recommend you look into it). Moxie is trying to become who she wants to be, but feels she is being held back by her family and her responsibilities.
The remainder of the De Lainey kids (of which there are Grady, Jeremy, Jack, (Moxie fits in here,) Dash, Toby, and the baby) are a mish-mash of personalities and brashness, and put together are chaos personified. They are the ideal family that anyone from an abused or broken home would want to climb into and drown themselves in. Of course there are arguments and door slamming, groundings and fights over chores; but everyone knows that they are loved and wanted, and they love and want in return.
Mr De Lainey is the adult of the De Lainey household. He’s a gentle giant of a man, and doing his best to raise seven children and run a construction business. They’re kind of a mess, but they’re sunshine and sprinklers in summer, cotton candy and unicorn carousels, warm cuddle and kittens (or puppies – whatever your preference). Just like Coach in The Foxhole Court, Mr De Lainey is THERE FOR YOU. No matter what. He may look tired and slightly fractured, but he cares about his kids. And others in general. The way he calls Sam “son”, thaws Sam’s and my heart into a gooey puddle of melted lemon calippo on the floor.
Basically, what I’m saying is that this book will break your heart (probably more than A Thousand Perfect Notes did), but it also gives you hope for humanity. This book reminded me that there are some kids and teens out there who need a loving family – maybe one that I could provide. It reminded me why I wanted to foster children. I want to be able to give them a safe space to grow and become who they truly want to be. That they may not be able to do that in their current situation. That they just need someone to smile and tell them that they care. That they matter.
Until next time, happy reading ??
Also, HAPPY RELEASE DAY to this amazing book!!
Note: I won a copy of this ARC in a competition by @dateabook and all opinions are my own.