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The Smell of Other People's Houses Hardcover – February 23, 2016
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A William C. Morris Award Finalist
A New York Public Library Best Book for Teens, 2016
“An exquisitely drawn, deeply heartfelt look at a time and place not often addressed. Hitchcock’s measured prose casts a gorgeous, almost otherworldly feel over the text, resulting in a quietly lovely look at the various sides of human nature and growing up in a difficult world.” —Booklist, Starred
"Using alternating narratives, debut novelist Hitchcock deftly weaves these stories together, setting them against the backdrop of a native Alaska that readers will find intoxicating. . . . will resonate with readers of all ages." —Publishers Weekly
“An affecting story of fractured love and surprising redemption.” —Shelf Awareness, Starred
“A multifaceted glimpse into [a] rich cast of characters. . . . An excellent debut.” —SLJ
“The Alaskan author depicts places and an era rarely seen in fiction for teens….All benefit from her journalist’s eye for detail.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Grounded in emotional honesty.” —The Horn Book
“An honest, gritty, and moving portrait of growing up in Alaska. Only someone who knows and loves this place through and through could tell this story. This book is Alaska.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of the New York Times bestseller The Snow Child
“As only a native of Alaska can, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock blends narratives of indigenous and non- into a buffet of pain and beauty. Highly recommended.” —Tim Tingle, author of the series How I Became a Ghost
About the Author
Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was born and raised in Alaska. She worked many years fishing commercially with her family and as a reporter for Alaska Public Radio stations around the state. She was also the host and producer of “Independent Native News,” a daily newscast produced in Fairbanks, focusing on Alaska Natives, American Indians, and Canada’s First Nations. Her writing is inspired by her family’s four generations in Alaska.
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Top Customer Reviews
I loved the glimpse of life on a fishing boat and summers spent at fish camp. I hope many young adults will read this book and develop an interest in exploring a world beyond television, video games and the internet...maybe get a hankering to go to Alaska for a summer - do some fishing and watch for orca whales.
The teens in this story all want a safe and welcoming place to live. They want people in that house to care for them, the make it a home. They want it to smell like baking instead of disinfectant. (not that a clean house is a bad thing).
Teens also compare their parents to the parents of their friends. Some are better and some are worse, it`s all in the eye of the teens involved. A few even fantasize that life would be better if they had different parents. A huge part of growing up, is coming to terms with the family you were born into.
Ruth, Dora, Alyce and Hank are all coming of age in the 1970`s in remote Alaska. They live in a small community where most people know each other and their histories. It`s a mixed culture community where many of the old practises have been maintained such as spending the summer at a hunting or fishing camp.
For a debut novel, author Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock did a great job of bringing these teens to life. The relationships between the teens seemed so real with their rivalries and friendships. I could clearily imagine the anguish that some of them were feeling and admit to shedding tears more than a few times. This story has it`s sorrows, but they are well balanced with the joys and it left me with a feeling of hope for these and other teens facing the challenges of growing up. I lreally enjoyed this book and look forward to future works by this author.
The Smell Of Other People's Houses is the story of four Alaskan teens in the nineteen-seventies whom are thrown together through their various secrets and who must learn to live with what they have been given. Each of their individual stories was astounding, not to mention the gorgeous complexity of their lives when they are suddenly thrust together. Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank - each has a secret or something they are running from, and each must learn to rely on someone else to bear the weight of their struggles. The development of the characters, hell, the development of the plot throughout the book as a whole was breathtaking. It was simply stunning. Watching these teens -these real people -work through issues that they shouldn't have to and yet everyone can connect to in some way, brings forth one of the most profound stories in Young Adult fiction I think I've ever seen.
I knew nothing of The Smell Of Other People's Houses when I got it - no synopsis, no prior mention, nada. I went down the rabbit hole that is four teens in Alaska without knowing what I was getting myself into - and boy am I glad I did. In all honesty, I think not knowing made the experience all the more powerful. I had no prior expectations, no idea what it was about - all I knew was that the cover was gorgeous and the title made me giggle. I have to say, this book is one of those rare, inevitably captivating stories that will grab you by the ankles and drag you kicking and screaming into these teen's lives. It will make you stop and think about what your home means to you, it will make you question everything you think you know - and it will make you realize that everyone, and everything, has a story, too.
One thing I really liked, besides the obvious, was the amount of information I learned. I don't know how much is true and just what is fictionalized for the plot of the book, but the complete other-worldliness of Alaska and the different ways these people live just blew my mind. From the very first page, and I'm talking the Prologue here, I found myself undoubtedly and impossibly enraptured with the differences. For example, right off the bat Ruth is explaining how her favorite cut of meat is Backstrap - something I've never heard of - and she describes how her father carving the deer is just as graceful as her mother curling ribbons on presents. Just think about that for a second. Not only is there a beautiful juxtaposition of language, but the whole process of carving a deer carcass within the home has become so normal to her that she compares it with gift wrapping. It blew my mind, to be honest. That isn't the only example, but there are far too many for me to ever accurately explain. Just... read it and see for yourself.
The Smell Of Other People's Houses is, hands down, one of the most interesting books I've had the pleasure of reading so far this year. Not only is the plot unique and interesting, it is specifically centered around a subculture we never pause to think about - hell, it was something I never even knew really existed. The Smell Of Other People's Houses is a heartbreaking tale that isn't afraid to deal with hard hitting issues such as teen pregnancy, death, abandonment, abuse, racism, and poverty. It was breathtaking, plain and simple.