I’m going to start off with saying that I’m a bit sad NetGalley rejected my request, but my book arrived the day before publishing day so I have a beautiful physical copy to hold and cherish.
This is the second novel of C.G. Drews, who has a blog called Paper Fury that I’m obsessed with, and I’ve been dying to read another book from her ever since I finished ‘A Thousand Perfect Notes’. I read this book in one sitting – only a few hours – and it’s one of few unputdownable books I’ve read this year.
A little about the book: Sam and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative they’ve ever known, and Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. Sam breaks into empty houses until one day he’s caught when a family returns home – a large, chaotic family that instantly accepts him – each teenager assuming he’s the friend of another sibling.
I’ll start off by saying that the plot of this book is very different to many of the contemporaries that I’ve read recently. Not in a bad way, not at all. This plot is subtle, and it’s fuelled by characters and desires and thoughts and feelings rather than events that occur to drive the story on. That means that all the characters are spectacularly and beautifully written. This is incredibly important as there are so many De Lainey siblings, but they are all still unique and individual and completely different to each other. And I love the style in which the story is told – it has a very conversational tone that dragged me into the story from the very first page.
This is an interesting point as Sam deserves a loving family of his own, but he would do literally anything for his brother Avery, no matter how messy and complicated their relationship becomes throughout the book. I don’t think we get enough sibling relationships in contemporary, but this one – especially the flashback chapters – made my heart feel all warm and soft on the inside. The only thing that keeps Sam going is protecting Avery.
In contrast to Sam’s lack of family, Moxie has an amazing one, and they provide huge moments of light and hope in what was otherwise a very dark moment, and that’s refreshing to read since so many books like to give all character’s family problems. The family dynamic is so well done and loud and messy and authentic and real. The thing I love the most about Moxie’s family is that there are cracks and fractures caused by the absence of their mother, but they all still love each other.
True friendship / slowburn romance
Sam has sad eyes and desperately wants to feel wanted. And Moxie is pure sunshine and she wants him.
This book has romance. A tiny bit of romance that doesn’t affect the story at all, but it’s there and it’s pure and it’s beautiful. It’s not InstaLove at all: it’s a mutual love that’s born out of one of my favourite friendships I’ve ever read in a contemporary. It was hardly noticeable but still absolutely stunning. And heartbreaking. Very heartbreaking.
I have one small issue with the Sam and Moxie, and that’s that they feel like a replica of Beck and August from Drew’s first book. I think that’s what’s stopping me from giving this a full five stars: I feel like the relationship has already been done before, and it’s by the same author.
The only other book I’ve ever read about an autistic character is Tiberius from ‘The Dark Artifices’, so it’s incredibly important to me that TBWSH presents another side of autism and that it’s own voices. The representation of autism in this ugly, disturbing, frustrating, but it’s definitely not hopeless. This is a real and brutal portrayal of autism, not just a simplified and stereotypical version that I’ve seen in media. I love Sam and Avery’s relationship so much, especially how Sam loves and protects his brother, and Sa understanding Avery for all that he is and never trying to ‘fix’ him.
I’ll never get sick of Drews’ talent for metaphors, and her talent for finding the perfect words to describe something that feels so indescribable.
This book made me feel so much. Lots of it hurt me to the core, but the rest of it was so wonderfully real and made me welcome the pain. This is a book that makes me want to live and breathe, slightly ironic as I spent a majority of it holding my breath and just hurting for Sam.
This may only be C.G. Drews’ second novel, but I can’t wait to see where she goes with her next book. I am already a lifelong fan.
Rating: 4.5 stars