Waffles, Glitter, & Heartbreak: ‘The Boy Who Steals Houses’ by C. G. Drews (ARC)

Take some soft boys, sassy girls, a lot of heartbreak, piles of waffles, and a touch of glitter. Mix it all together and you get…well, pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a book written by Paper Fury. In the best possible way, of course.

Who, What, Where?

Sam and his autistic brother Avery have had it tough – an absent mother, abusive father, and an aunt who kicked them out. Ever since, the brothers have been stealing to get by, but not just wallets and phones. Sam also steals houses. Using his lock picking abilities and powers of observation, Sam’s great at choosing places to hold up in for a couple of days. That is, until the empty house he crashes in one night becomes not so empty the next morning. Enter the De Laineys – the big, crazy, and wonderful family that’s everything Sam’s ever wanted. Mistaken as one of the sibling’s friends, suddenly, he’s hanging out with twins Jeremy and Jack, and day dreaming about spunky, fashion designer Moxie. But Sam knows it can’t last and if they only knew the secrets he’s hiding…

I’m Happy, I’m Sad, I’m a Mess

TBWSH is a bizarre mix of different tones. One minute you’re reading about Avery getting abused and wanting to rip your heart out of your chest it hurts so bad, the next, pure happy, fluffdom hits, such as Moxie showing Sam how to eat waffles properly (*spoiler* with lots of caramel sauce!). I’ve read a few books where these different moods haven’t been integrated very well, leaving you with severe emotional whiplash. However, I can safely say that this is one book in which it just works effortlessly. For something with such dramatic highs and lows, it somehow always feels smooth and natural.

Speaking of these highs and lows, I have to say just how well written they are, especially the sadder ones. There are moments of genuine joy and others that are unexpectedly dark. Both hit you hard in a fantastic (or is it awful?) way.

Can I Join the De Lainey Family?

Just like Sam, I unexpectedly fell in love with the De Lainey family. Some members are more prominent/better developed than others, but I thoroughly enjoyed every scene in which members of them were around. Each person is different and sweet, and it’s very easy to believe a family like them exists out there somewhere. Plus, the banter is so good. I cracked a smile on many occasions during this book – it’s all so easy and amusing, particularly if it involves Jack and his swearing.

Loose Ends

While I enjoyed TBWSH, one of the things that bugged me a little were the few loose ends it finished up with. There’s the issue of some stolen money, a someone who does something to Sam and just disappears, and then, (although it’s still adorable) the sort of open-ended-ness to the ending itself. Yes, I understand I can’t always have all the answers but I’m a curious (aka. nosy) person, okay. I just have to know everyone’s alright! 

Writing Style

Something I was worried about going into this book was the writing style. I love Cait’s photography on Bookstagram, however, I’m only able to read her captions and reviews in small doses. I just find her writing very… energetic? Overwhelming? It’s not about quality, just personal preference. For this reason, I wondered if her books would read like her reviews. The answer is yes, and no. The writing still definitely screams Cait, but it also feels a little calmer somehow. Yet, there are a few choice phrases and similes that I found myself going, ‘huh?’ in response to, or finding a little grating with time. For example:

  • “Caseworkers made of black ink and hard lines”
  • Their kiss tasted of “salty tears and bloody memories and empty boxes”
  • “He can build a bridge of moons and caramel cakes”

Autistic Representation

Not only does TBWSH prominently feature a character with autism but, although this is just one expression on a broad spectrum, the representation here is done very well. Avery’s movements, speech, and behaviours are consistent, realistic and never feel gimmicky or thrown in for extra colour. He’s a well-developed and sympathetic character, and the violence and misunderstanding he faces over the course of the book truly hurt me.

You, Me, We

The relationship between Avery and Sam is great and I love how Cait was able to perfectly depict the complicated emotions associated with having a loved one with a disability. There’s love, a desire to protect them, and feelings of responsibility, but also guilt, frustration and resentment. The novel has some lovely moments between Sam and Avery and this bond really is the heart of the story. Sam just wants to protect his brother from the world but he can’t, and that’s the worst part.

Other Thoughts:

  • The book has a great start – it introduces the characters well, has a good degree of tension and really grabs you.
  • Moxie is a boss and I only want amazing things and many boxes of caramel chocolates for her.

TBWSH is a sweet but emotional read. If you’re looking for a YA contemporary about belonging, brotherhood, acceptance (and yummy snacks) that’ll break your heart and put it back together again, all in the space of 300 pages, this is the perfect choice.

4.5 STARS

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