Fifteen-year-old Sam and his older brother Avery have been abandoned by their entire family. All Sam wants to do is protect his brother with autism, and someday own a house of his own that he doesn’t have to steal. One day, he stumbles upon an empty, cluttered house and spends the night. However, the family returns home while he’s asleep. When Sam awakes, he blends right in with their chaotic household.
Here, Sam meets and falls in love with Moxie, a bright, lively girl who loves sewing. However, he knows he can’t develop a relationship with her or her family; he’s stolen from them and lived in their house when they were away.
The Boy Who Steals Houses was a lot different from what I was initially expecting, but I liked it. It’s a poignant, emotional read with an unreliable main character. Sam has good intentions for his decisions, but the way he executes them aren’t exactly moral. It was interesting to follow a character where you root for them but are also aware that the way he’s acting isn’t necessarily “good”. This book makes you open your heart to Sam. All he wants to do is protect his brother and belong somewhere.
The other characters were well-developed and intriguing. I’m not sure if Avery’s autism representation is accurate or respectful, but it felt genuine while reading. However, I won’t be speaking out on a topic I’m unknowledgeable on. When we’re first introduced to Moxie, I was afraid she’d be a manic pixie dream girl, but I ended up loving her character. She always stood up for herself and went on feminist rants when her brothers were being problematic. In addition, I liked how we were still acquaintanced with most of the side characters, even in a family of this magnitude. For example, we know about Jeremy’s personality and the fact that he had an ex-boyfriend. It made me feel more present and connected to these characters like I was in the household with them.
P.S. I have a large extended family myself and I loved how realistic the portrayal of all these people coexisting under one roof was. It’s a cacophony and a huge mess that never seems to end, but it makes you feel more comfortable and welcomed at the same time.
I liked the writing. There was nothing inherently wrong with it, I just thought some of the similes/metaphors tried too hard to be poetic and didn’t make sense. For example, eyes are described as “broken oceans”, which isn’t exactly a helpful description. Otherwise, the poetic writing perfectly reflected the inner happenings of Sam’s mind. It was reminiscent of the writing in Shatter Me. It’s never outwardly stated, but Sam definitely has some kind of anxiety. This is excellently presented through repetition and the placement of letters to help portray this to the audience. It was a little quirk that I loved about Drews’ writing.
The plot is told through present tense with some flashbacks to “before” when Sam and Avery had a home. These flashbacks all hold a mystery surrounding Sam and something illegal he’s committed, causing him to run from the police. When this is finally revealed at the end, it was quite underwhelming. You’re kind of left there thinking “that’s it?” Not that it doesn’t have a huge impact on the story, but it’s too predictable. There was plenty of foreshadowing to suggest what would happen, which I’m not critiquing at all. I just wish it was something more shocking. Furthermore, this ends like every other contemporary novel: with much to the imagination. I personally liked the ending, it allows me to hypothesise what will happen with Sam and Avery in the future. It can go terribly, or they can finally achieve what they wanted.
I don’t have much else to say about this book. It was great, but it was missing something to give it the full five stars. And I can’t quite put my finger on what that was.
The Boy Who Steals Houses is a poignant, moving novel about two broken, abandoned boys trying to find a place to belong, and the younger brother who desperately wants to protect his sibling. It’s both a sweet love story between two teenagers with tough pasts and an emotional journey as Sam and Avery find people to call their family. The writing was beautiful in places, but there were some confusing aesthetic features, the characters are multi-faceted and jump off the page, and the romance is adorable. I’d definitely recommend if you’re a fan of contemporaries that deal with heartbreaking, realistic issues.
- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: Orchard Books; 1 edition (9 April 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1408349922
- ISBN-13: 978-1408349922
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 281 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)