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Tessa, Palmers Green High School

The Smell of Other People's Houses

Out of all the books I have read for Carnegie, both this year and last year, ‘The Smell of Other People’s Houses’ was the strongest competitor for the Award so far. The plot follows four main characters: Hank, a runaway teen who looks after his two brothers, Ruth, a plucky, slightly naïve girl who falls in and out of love with those in her lives, Alyce, an aspiring dancer who spends half her life on the shore with her mother and the other half out at sea with her father, and Dora, a teen much older than her years filled with emotions that she has no idea how to control. I have not read any other books quite like this one, and it was a roller coaster ride that started once I first picked it up. After one chapter, I was hooked and there was no stopping me.
What made ‘The Smell of Other People’s Houses’ so unique and poignant was the intricate entwining of each character’s lives and the lives of people that they knew, and how each person caused a ripple effect in the lives of others. It was a story about life, love and acceptance but what gripped me about this book in particular was its depth and realistic feel; I felt like I was part of the story, that I could reach out and touch these people, and I loved it. I am not ashamed to say that I cried (my heartstrings were at breaking point several times during this story) and that a few times I had to put the book down because I was laughing so hard that I cried as well. In fact, some of the choices of the characters (especially Ruth) made me want to tear my hair out in frustration because they were so relatable.
However, and I feel that I need to mention this, although I am occasionally willing to overlook a few leaps of faith and MAJOR coincidences that would never happen in real-life, this book had a few too many to be truly believable and sometimes it was just downright impossible that these people could be so interconnected.
Also, there were a few plot twists and major reveals that were a little too obvious or foreshadowed and I sometimes found it tricky to distinguish between characters and their points of view when it came to Ruth and Dora, as they would often mention the same people from different perspectives which made it highly confusing to read on occasion.
I would recommend ‘The Smell of Other People’s Houses’ to readers in Year 9 and above purely because parts of the plot are not suitable for younger readers and I doubt that many younger readers would understand how, why or what is happening.

Posted on: 6th May 2017 at 04:08 pm

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