Pub. Date: February 23, 2016
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Wendy Lamb Books!)
Summary: In 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. This unforgettable book is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.
Genre: YA, Historical
While I certainly have my favorite time periods and eras, I consider myself to be a very open-minded reader who likes exploring new worlds that are outside my comfort zone. A world definitely outside my comfort zone? Alaska in the 70s. When I was asked to be a part of the blog tour I couldn’t say YES! fast enough!
The Smell of Other People’s Houses tells the story of four teenagers who couldn’t be more different: one night haunts Ruth and causes her to be sent away; Dora fears she’ll always be bound to her home, even after a lucky break; Alyce loves her father, but dancing means the world to her and helping out on his fishing boat for the summer means walking away from an audition that could change her world; Hank and his brothers fled home and have managed to escape notice on a ship…but then his brother falls overboard.
For such a short little whisper of a novel (less than 250 pages!) this book certainly packs a punch and Hitchcock is not afraid to tackle any subject! Pregnancy, abuse, romance, religion, class difference, racism – it’s all on full display here and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how deftly she wove the storylines together. At no point did the book come off feeling like an after school special, not once did I feel like she bit off more than she could chew, so bravo for that!
If there was one issue I had with this one it would be that, at times, the transitions between characters came off as a bit sudden and jarring. I wonder if the story would have benefited from an additional hundred pages or perhaps less narratives..? I take a ‘the more, the merrier’ approach to character POVs, but I never fully felt connected here. There just wasn’t enough space to flesh out these teens and provide me with the insight I so desperately wanted. I know there was more to Alyce than just a pretty girl who had dreams of dancing. Don’t think for a second there wasn’t a world of emotion and anguish trapped inside Dora’s mind just waiting to be discovered!
I guess when the worst that can be said about a novel is that it wasn’t long enough you’ve done your job as a writer (and this is a debut too!) The Smell of Other People’s Houses didn’t always feel like a historical novel and could have easily been read as contemporary, but what lies within its pages is just the beginning of what’s to come for Hitchcock. With heavy-hitting topics tackled with a graceful flair but without being sugar-coated or gimmicky, this is a novel bound to resonate with readers. Although I would have loved a deeper look into the characters, I’d happily recommend this one and look forward to see what Hitchcock does next!
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2/17: Reading With Cupcakes
2/18: Jessabella Reads
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