THE BOY WHO STEALS HOUSES - by C.G. Drews

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Published: April 2019 - Orchard Books.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary. 
Pages: 347.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong violence / child abuse / mental illness. 
Format: ARC paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

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.


C.G. Drews has a very distinct writing style, and in the end the result comes down to personal preference. Personally, I don't love it. It's too flowery, too melodramatic, and there is a ton of exposition - telling you what the characters are like and how they feel, and I've never liked that amount of forthrightness in a book.
It's not that the writing is bad - it isn't, not really. But I don't love it.

The plot is a rollercoaster of emotion from beginning to end and the emotional trauma will all but cripple you. It's so heartbreaking, so gut-wrenching. Sam and Avery are abused and broken and they never catch a break; their past and present are so twisted, and the scenes of violence are so painful to read because it's just so unjust. It's utterly tragic.
 
You won't be able to put the book down, either. It's constantly entertaining, and the pace rides on crackling waves of emotion that never let up. Your heart will pound, your eyes will be glued to the page, and you'll be lost in the riveting sibling dynamic of the story that holds everything together. While I found Drews' debut quite boring, this novel is anything but. There's a lot going on, a ton of relationship dynamics, and of course superbly drawn protagonists.



Moxie's body relaxes and her shoulder leans against his. The pressure is warm and soft and everything. And he falls into it. Just a little. He won't let himself get too comfortable - he's not that stupid. But for the barest moment between patchwork frowns, he's wanted.”


Avery is easily my favourite character, primarily because of the way he's written. He comes across so incredibly vivid and human, and while I'm not autistic and thus hardly one to judge, his autism appeared to be brilliantly written. Of all the characters, Avery is the one who truly comes alive on the page. I appreciate the writing and arc of Sam's character, too, but he never feels as real as Avery.

As for the De Lainey family, I'm torn. It took a while for any of them to feel three-dimensional, and I never loved the banter and humour. There are a few brilliant lines tossed between them, but honestly? The humour generally feels contrived. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but it's the truth. I wish it wasn't!    

The romance is cute and I definitely ship Sam and Moxie. Their relationship develops beautifully, and the chemistry is there. My only qualm is Moxie. I do like her character, and I love how feminist she is, but she's also very similar to August from Drews' A Thousand Perfect Notes. That frustrates me. They're both feisty, artistic, unconventional, and verging on "hippy".  Obviously there's nothing with that, but it's the similarity between Drews' two heroines that annoys me.




Despite flowery writing and unnecessary exposition, The Boy Who Steals Houses is a passionate exploration of love, loss, family, and belonging.  Vivid characters and a gut-wrenching story will steal you away into a heart-pounding adventure.   

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