The Boy Who Steals Houses

The Boy Who Steals Houses
How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
A Thousand Perfect Notes

Synopsis:

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.

Thoughts:

I loved A Thousand Perfect Notes so much that I pre-ordered The Boy Who Steals Houses. It’s taken me ages to get around to reading it, but I’m so pleased that I did because it’s incredible. I’m all for representation of autism and this book has it in abundance. Representation that is so on point. I’ve worked with so many children with autism and I have to say, the author absolutely nailed the representation.

It centres around 15 year old Sam. He is desperate to take care of his older brother Avery. Avery has autism and needs consistent routine. Both Sam and Avery have had it hard in their lives. Their father is abusive, leaving the boys with an Aunt who doesn’t really want them. Sam and Avery end up homeless, with Sam stealing houses to ensure they always have somewhere to stay. Sam is getting good at working out when a house in unoccupied. However, one day he’s caught out when a family return home early. Sam finds himself being swept up by a large, pretty chaotic family. They each think Sam is one of their sibling’s friends. He finds himself involved in their lives and falling for Moxie. However, Sam has a secret he’s been hiding and it’ll soon be revealed…

The characters in this story are phenomenal. I loved Sam and Avery and Moxie was a fantastic character too. I loved the chaotic De Lainey family. I felt like they brought some joy to a story that is otherwise very dark. Sam goes through things he shouldn’t be dealing with at 15. He has to deal with so much in his young life. The De Lainey family are definitely welcome relief for him.

A word of warning, there is some physical abuse within the story that will hurt your heart. The story does have some lighter moments though which give you a chance to take a breather from the horrible events. Overall, it’s a messy story about family and devotion. It’s a heart-breaking read but so worthwhile.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Another incredible book from C.G Drews. Highly recommended!

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Shtum

Shtum

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

Thoughts:

I heard about this book through the blogosphere. Having taught a few children with autism (and having an austitic child in my new class from September) I do have an interest in stories involving characters with autism. Shtum is a simple but touching story on family life. It’s dark, but a touching and incredibly poignant story.

Shtum follows Ben who is the father of Jonah. Jonah is a severely autistic 10-year-old boy. Jonah requires a lot of care. He’s not toilet trained and barely speaks. Ben and his wife Emma are trying to decide what secondary school would be best for Jonah. It’s a big decision for any parent, but for parent’s of autistic children, it’s complicated. They want the best for their son, understandably. Ben’s life becomes even more complex, when Emma suggests that they separate so Jonah has more of a chance to get into the secondary school of their choice following a tribunal. So Ben moves in with his father. We learn that Ben has never felt loved by his dad, Georg. Shtum really explores the father/son relationship in a raw yet touching way.

Shtum is a moving read. The three characters, Georg, Jonah and Ben grow so much throughout the novel. I absolutely loved the relationship between grandfather and grandson. They clearly adored each other. Ben definitely grew on me as a character. I wasn’t overly fussed with him in the beginning. I think this is because of his bad decisions thus far in his life, but as a reader, we learn that this is down to his lack of self-esteem and belief in himself. I would have liked to read more about Ben’s relationship with his ex-wife Emma, as that was never really explored.

I do think that this is a realistic look at autism. It’s clear that the author has understanding of autism. This book might sound like it’s really depressing, but there are some lighter moments and some humour injected into it which lightens the story a little.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!- 3.5 stars

A touching read about family!

The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice From The Silence of Autism

All quotations taken from this beautiful book.

All quotations taken from this beautiful book.

How did I get it?:
I bought it! I’ll be sharing it around my school too.

Synopsis:

A rare and important insight into the mind of an autistic child. ‘Composed by a writer still with one foot in childhood, and whose autism was at least as challenging and life-defining as our son’s, THE REASON I JUMP was a revelatory godsend. Reading it felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head.’

Written by Naoki Higishida when he was only thirteen, this remarkable book explains the often baffling behaviour of autistic children and shows the way they think and feel – such as about the people around them, time and beauty, noise, and themselves. Naoki abundantly proves that autistic people do possess imagination, humour and empathy, but also makes clear, with great poignancy, how badly they need our compassion, patience and understanding.

David Mitchell and his wife have translated Naoki’s book so that it might help others dealing with autism, and generally illuminate a little-understood condition. Like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, it gives us an exceptional chance to enter the mind of another and see the world from a strange and fascinating perspective.

Thoughts:

This is going to be a very different sort of review for me. I’m going to share some incredibly touching quotations. I currently work in an infant school with 5-6 year olds. In the past, I have worked with children with autism. I think even if you haven’t it would take the coldest heart to not feel compassion for people with autism. This book is written by Naoki Higashida. Naoki’s autism is so severe, it makes spoken communication incredibly difficult for him. Thanks to a teacher, Naoki’s mum and Naoki’s own determination to learn, he learnt to spell words directly onto an alphabet grid. Naoki communicates by pointing out the letters on these grids to spell out the words. This boy is remarkable. He just proves that although he may have ‘special needs’, he has the desire and curiosity to learn, just like we do.

Here are some of my favourite quotations.

“During my frustrating, miserable, helpless days, I’ve started imagining what it would be like if everyone was autistic. If autism was regarded simply as a personality type, things would be so much easier and happier for us than they are now. For sure, there are bad times when we cause a lot of hassle for other people, but what we really want is to be able to look towards a brighter future.”

“We know we’re making you sad and upset, but it’s as if we don’t have any say in it, I’m afraid, and that’s the way it is. But please, whatever you do, don’t give up on us. We need your help.”

“Every single time I’m talked down to, I end up feeling utterly miserable- as if I’m being given a zero chance of a decent future.”

And the one that resonated the most with me…

“True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect. That’s what I think, anyway.”

I could quote the entire book, it’s so inspiring, interesting and has helped me greatly into beginning to understand what life is like for those with autism. It can sometimes be frustrating to deal with, but the person you’re dealing with is feeling just as frustrated, if not more so because they’re just not being understood.

This book broke my heart but this statement gives me hope:

“If all of you can grasp this truth about us, we are handed a ray of hope. However hard an autistic life is, however sad it can be, so long as there’s hope we can stick at it. And when the light of hope shines on all this world, then our future will be connected with your future. That’s what I want, above all.”

Please consider reading this beautiful book. Especially if you work with, or know someone with autism.