Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Smell Of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (review) // Alaska + diversity + family, friendship, love

19370304In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled.

The Smell Of Other People’s Houses follows a formula that many authors don’t particularly explore. It’s set in an unconventional setting, Alaska, and follows the perspectives of four different teenagers living across the state. Their individual stories coincide in interesting ways, and each character goes through experiences involving the craziness of family, friendship, and love.

I have to say, for a debut author, Hitchcock has an amazing way with words. I adored the writing in this book, there were lyrical and descriptive statements and mostly blunt ones, but both types contained an immeasurable amount of honesty and emotion. It wasn’t unnecessarily heavy, Hitchcock expressed the overwhelming emotions running through most of the characters in a very raw way. This definitely helps when it comes to expressing the numerous themes of love, acceptance, friendship, and family running through this book.

I’ve never read a book set in Alaska, and while I do like the unconventionality of this setting, I wish the atmosphere was a bit more … conveyed. There were several descriptions of the several fishing trips the characters took and progressing seasons definitely contributed, but I never really experienced the 70’s vibe the same way I experienced the 60’s in All The Crooked Saints. I really hate to compare it to Maggie Stiefvater’s work, but the premise of this book really gave me the same vibe.

I really liked the foundations of each of the characters. Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank all dealt with ordinary and not-so-ordinary family issues and inner conflicts in different ways, and I liked how each of their personalities shines through easily through their narrations. However, it wasn’t enough to make me fully invested in these characters and their entanglements. I suppose the biggest reason for that has nothing to do with the characters themselves, but the fact that the book is simply too short. I love short books (All The Crooked Saints, anyone?) but I feel like The Smell Of Other People’s Houses and its length is a hindrance to the layered foundations created for the characters.

The Smell Of Other People’s House is a very ‘meh’ book in a few aspects but I love that it attempts to do something different in the midst of angsty contemporaries marked by romance. I’d say to read it for the gorgeous writing itself.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Thanks for viewing, guys! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂


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