This YA novel is heart-breaking and gritty and raw and I loved it. It is a different novel to what I usually read but it had some good reviews so I picked it up.
Sammy Lou is fifteen. He has an autistic older brother called Avery whom he loves fiercely above all else. Their mother walked out on them and their dad is drunk, abusive and violent and gets himself thrown into jail. Their aunt doesn’t want anything to do with them so the boys run away and steal houses.
Stealing houses is kind of like living someone’s life for a while, they pick a house where the owners have gone away for a while and live in it, eat their food, maybe steal some money to get by, then find another house. It isn’t the best for Avery’s routine but what other options do they have? Sammy has done something terrible to protect Avery and no one can find out where he is or there will be big trouble.
One day a buttercup yellow house catches Sammy’s eye and he is sucked in to the house that feels so lived-in and full of love. But then he gets caught, and caught up in the De Laineys' busy, crazy, messy lives as he manages to bluff his way into being accepted by them. He is also quite drawn to Moxie, the oldest girl in the big family. But secrets never stay hidden forever and Sammy’s past comes to catch up with him.
Oh my heart goes out to Sammy Lou, life dealt him some hard blows and he uses his fists to solve his problems, no matter how hard he tries not to. But someone has to look after Avery. His decision making is poor, and mainly motivated by his stomach and his intense need to feel wanted and accepted.
Then by contrast, the De Laineys. With four teenagers, a tween, and a couple of young ones all in one house there is obviously chaos, but it’s the loving kind, where insults are shouted but not taken to heart, and they welcome everyone in for Sunday lunch, despite going through some rough times. It’s no wonder Sammy doesn’t want to leave.
I loved the way that the story concluded, with Sammy’s character doing some major re-evaluation. I loved that there was always the tiniest bit of hope tucked away (except for one part – yikes!). I loved that Avery’s autism was written so well, and shows the good and bad sides to living with autism. I loved that sometimes you have to make your own family – a found family as the author puts it.
There was a lot to like about this book, but it was so hard to read in the sense that these two sweet boys were forced to make the best of a terrible life, and that they only had each other, no-one else loved them.
C.G. Drews is also known as Cait and she blogs over at Paper Fury. She is 25! And also has autism which makes Avery even more special to read about. She lives in Australia so giving props to local(ish) books is something I love doing. Read this book!