The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews
Fifteen-year-old Sam and his older brother Avery are struggling to make a better life for themselves on the streets after being abused by every parental figure in their life. Avery, who is autistic, bore the brunt of their father’s abuse, causing Sam to become protective – so protective that he has violent impulses towards anyone who harms or takes advantage of his brother. To survive, Sam breaks into empty houses at night, but is caught out one day when a family returns earlier than expected. A case of mistaken identities leads to Sam befriending this large, messy family, and he starts to develop feelings for the sassy and sarcastic Moxie.
Author C.G. Drews’ debut A Thousand Perfect Notes attracted a lot of fervent fannish ardour, and readers who related to the pain and suffering depicted in that first novel will find more to like here. The romance between Sam and Moxie offers some levity, juxtaposing against the relentlessly dark gauntlet of abuse, abandonment and violence Sam and his brother experience. Sam’s inner monologue swings between emotional extremes – anger, desperation, hope, self-loathing – it’s so intimate it sometimes feels like a stream of consciousness. The violence depicted is visceral and stark, although a scene where Sam punches a villainous female character is troubling for its lack of consequence.
It’s inspiring that Drews has written an #OwnVoices story in which Avery’s actions revolve around his relationships rather than his autism. However, because the story is told exclusively from Sam’s perspective, Avery’s feelings are not always clear and readers looking for YA centred on an autistic experience may want to look elsewhere. This is an emotional, no-holds-barred story that Drews’ online following will likely snap up with enthusiasm. For ages 15+.