The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

 

In The Smell of Other People's Houses four teenagers' lives intertwine over the course of a year in Alaska in 1970. Ruth, who lives with her strict grandmother after her father's death and her mother's breakdown, is sent to a convent when she finds herself pregnant. Dora, who is taken in by a loving family after her abusive father is sent to jail, comes into some luck that may be her downfall. Alyce, a talented dancer who spends summers on her father's fishing boat, longs to try out for a dance scholarship, but doesn't want to abandon her father. Finally, Hank and his brothers, who stow away on a boat after running away from their mother and her abusive boyfriend, find themselves in a world of trouble after one of them goes overboard.  

 

As the title indicates the author uses sensory details to paint a picture of teens trying to find their places in a difficult world. Her lyrical prose evokes a time and place not frequently explored and leaves the reader with an emotionally honest view of kids experiencing domestic trauma. This book is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris Award, honoring a debut novel written for teens in 2016.

 

William C. Morris Honor (2017)

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Wendy Lamb Books. Feb 23, 2016. 240 pages. MS/HS.

 

Booktalk by Sharon Nehls.

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