There is nothing like an intriguing title to make you want to read a book and The Boy Who Steals Houses does just this. It suggests magical realism or fantasy but it is very much a gritty human tale, full of sadness but also great warmth.
Sammy Lou is only fifteen but is already living a life on the streets. His brother, Avery is autistic and Sammy has spent the majority of his young life trying to shield Avery from the worst of the world. Unfortunately, despite his efforts, Avery is exposed to people who only wish to do him harm and this causes inordinate stress on the relationship between the brothers as Sammy uses the only way he knows how to keep people from hurting Avery – his fists. Having grown up in an environment of violence, Avery hates fighting, even if it is Sammy’s only means to get back at the people who bully Avery.
The story revolves around Sammy mainly and his ability to break into houses. He does steal from them but more than that, he uses them for shelter: as a safe place to sleep and recharge, by eating their food and soaking up the atmosphere of what it would be like to live in a normal family. It is by doing this that he comes into contact with the De Laineys and more specifically, Moxie. Here, he finds a comfort that he is desperate to hold onto to and yet, everything seems to be conspiring against him and he is in danger of having to relinquish it in order to keep them and Avery safe.
I found this book very moving. C.G. Drews has created a character in Sammy who is to be admired: he is resilient, loyal and with the right environment, there is a sense that he is capable of much. The love that he has for Avery is powerful and the depiction of their relationship and its complexities is very well drawn.
I liked the way that we see Sammy and Avery growing up and coming to the place where they are now. Their lack of adult role models does much to show how they have become products of their upbringing but also, that with strength of character, they are not without morals and goodness; merely doing what they need to survive.
Ultimately, a sad tale but uplifting and hopeful.