Right, time to crack on with this year’s Carnegie shortlist. I’m hoping to finish them all this year before the winner is announced, wish me luck! First off is The smell of other people’s houses, the YA debut novel by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock.
Set in 1970 Alaska, the story follows the lives of four very different young people. Ruth, following an encounter with a rich boy, finds herself in a complicated situation with the Catholic grandmother who raises her and her sister. Dora struggles to find her place in the world after escaping a miserable childhood of abuse and violence. Alyce longs for a life as a ballerina, but is desperately not to lose her annual fishing trips with her father. Hank is running away from home with his brothers. But what happens when all of their stories collide?
What I loved about this little book was the way that Hitchcock links smells and memories. The language is beautiful and deliberate throughout. I loved the way the characters were painted, from the lovely to the truly vile. As with a lot of YA books, it does cover a plethora of issues; from teenage pregnancy, to abuse, to struggles with identity and abandonment, but it doesn’t feel like a slog at any point. I also loved learning more about Alaska, from its rich history, to the struggles of its native people and their differing ways of life.
A great start and a real contender.