The boy who steals houses by C.G. Drews

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Hachette Books Australia, 2019. ISBN: 9781408349922. 346p
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: Family/Bildungsroman. Sam and Avery have been fending for themselves for nearly two years. Gradually, we establish that their emotionally distant aunt cared for the two teenage brothers after their abusive father abandoned them. Sam will do anything to protect his older brother Avery, who has autism, which has led to Sam's own anger management issues at school and beyond. In order for them to survive, Sam perfects the art of temporarily inhabiting the homes of families on vacation. For money, they work as a team to pick pockets.
But Avery is unhappy and seeking independence. A mechanical savant, he finds a job in a garage and moves into a crack house. Sam fears for Avery, who is vulnerable but cannot convince him to continue to break into empty houses together. Distracted and alone, Sam chooses a house and in the manner of Goldilocks, falls asleep in a big armchair in a disused room. When the De Lainey family return unexpectedly, Sam is trapped. In the course of making his escape, each sibling mistakes him for the friend of one of the others. In a comedy of errors, Sam is welcomed into a real family - one he has always dreamed of belonging to.
When the jig is finally up, the mess is spectacular but not before Sam falls in love with Moxie, after spending the summer surrounded by her gorgeous, loving family.
Dysfunctional families and making it out the other side, is C.G. Drews' forte. This story is every bit as harrowing but more nuanced than her earlier novel, A Thousand Perfect Notes. The number of resonant issues affecting the major characters and the burgeoning romance between Sam and Moxie, guarantee another page turner for this rousing young author.
Deborah Robins