Sumaiyya’s Book for Thought: The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

For this week’s Book for Thought, I’ve picked a book that redeems the young adult (YA) genre to a great extent. The Smell of Other People’s House is a story of four teenagers who are troubled in very distinct ways and to various degrees. It’s a very atmospheric read, filled with smells, sights and sounds. Our young characters – Ruth, Dora, Alyce and Hank – each have their own set of worries that they overcome or come to terms with during the course of the book. The book is set in 1970s Alaska, a combination I don’t think I’ve read before.

If you read a lot of YA (Young Adult) or never really, you’ll love this book. Here are top reasons I definitely loved it:

  1. The writing was beautiful and so atmospheric. I felt really involved in the scenes because it felt so real in my head. I love that no words were wasted and it felt like the writer knew exactly where the story has to go.
  2. The writer included some events that happened in real life. In my opinion, this makes a story more authentic and realistic.
  3. The four narrators have distinct voices and unique perspectives, which is not easy to accomplish.
  4. The book has a great pace with almost no unnecessary scenes or moments.
  5. The story centres around some really serious teen issues including violence, suicide attempts and teen pregnancy. These are written with a maturity and perspective that I’d recommend for younger readers.
  6. The book attempts to break stereotypes and it does it subtly. Alyce is a ballerina and loves working on her dad’s fishing boat; a combination that you almost never see in characters.

I definitely recommend this literary YA to all. I loved the concept behind the title, especially because I’ve always been aware of how different other people’s homes smell. Each of the characters have different lifestyles, which also represent the different smells homes have.

Add this book to Goodreads.

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