Can two broken boys find their perfect home?
Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie.
But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.
Wow did I cry a lot. I mean, it’s not that unusual for me to cry reading a book, but oof this book had me wiping my face dry and then somehow crying all over again. I say all this with a whole lotta love, because I adored this book.
I went into this book cautiously. I mean, I’d heard basically nothing but positive things about C.G. Drews and her writing, and she’s Australian (and own voices!!). But I think because of all of this, rather than despite it, I was wary. I wanted so badly to love it, but I didn’t want it to leave me going in with big expectations and becoming disappointed. But wow. W o w. I had no reason to be cautious. Her writing sucked me in basically from the first word, and I swear I did not move until I finished the book (save to wipe my face with my sleeve because I cried THAT MUCH).
Sam and Avery and actually every single character in this book felt so real and rounded and so true to life. I’ve noticed that about OzYa in particular — the voices feel so much more authentic, and I’m honestly not sure if it’s because Australians are the people I’m surrounded by, and the books are reflecting that, or if our culture is more welcoming to people less polished (less Hollywood). Though, maybe it was just Cait working magic because damn did I become immediately attached to every character we met.
Sam was soft, even as he tried to harden himself to be what his brother needed. He was flawed, and imperfect and dealing with A LOT but he was such a sweet, lovely kid that I wanted to immediately wrap him up in blankets and feed him soup. Even when he made decisions that made me frustrated, I could understand him and his motivations. I feel like he was a character that could have easily been a stereotype (I mean I’ve definitely read books from the girl’s POV with stereotypes of people that have the experiences that Sam does), but he was nuanced and trying his hardest. Also I — and this is a weird thing but bear with me — loved that he cried? I mean I never wanted him to be sad, but I love that that was something that was shown, and he had every reason to cry, honestly. I liked that he was strong and able to cry.
Avery, I cannot get over. He was a beautiful character. I feel like far too often (at least in the books that I have read) characters with autism are never allowed to be more than that. Or, if they are, the other sides of autism are promptly ignored. They’re either the younger, mute brother of a main character who causes trouble, or a highly functioning character who maybe can’t get jokes easily, but otherwise doesn’t struggle. And I’m in no position to say that either of these are bad, or that they’re not realistic (tbh I’ve no clue!) but that is the only portrayal I see.
I loved that Avery was far more than that. He had more than his fair share of struggles, he had meltdowns and needed to stim, needed Sam and his familiarity to get through rough patches. But he was also a, you know, person. He was funny and he had dreams and he may not have always been the best brother, but he was trying. I loved seeing the dynamic between the brothers shift and changed, loved that it was flawed and damaged and shifting, but they still cared for each other.
The DeLainey family I could write a whole other review about. I loved that they were messy and chaotic and struggling in their own ways. The twins instantly captured my heart, I will not lie, Jeremy and Jack are the older brothers we all need in our lives (especially Jeremy, what a boy). I loved the chaos, and the mix of exasperation and love that makes the best sorts of sibling bonds.
Moxie was gorgeous and a force to be reckoned with and I adoooored her. I find a lot of authors, when a girl has a lot/only brothers tend to make her ‘one of the boys’, like the whole “I’m not like the other girls… my brothers taught me to be tough” and honestly uuggggggggh. I love that Moxie was pretty much the polar opposite of this, with her fierce feminism and love of designing (and how this came into play with her role with the babies). I loved her relationship with Sam, their chemistry felt so real and natural and I will support them always.
I don’t want to get too much into the plot, because I feel like you really need to kinda let it unfold as it does in the book to really get that emotional plot. I will say that I was incredibly satisfied. I love that there were moments where Cait could have bowed out with a Hollywood wrapping things up nicely and neatly in a bow, ignoring the flaws and actions of characters or their consequences. I loved that she could have dismissed a lot, but she did not. And I liked that it was a satisfying, good ending, where it could have just been a sad, gritty non-ending of an ending.
I would absolutely recommend this book to basically anyone. It’s a really fresh feeling contemporary with a strong voice and even stronger characters. The rep is fantastic and the issues complex, without being too misery-porn in their execution. Bring tissues, but I promise the tears are worth it.