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

19370304The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: Publisher
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2016
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Point of View: 1st Person & Alternative
Recommended Age: 13+
Pacing: Slow
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Family, Alaska

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In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.


I can’t believe I just read three historical fiction books in a row. Three very different YA historical fiction books, but three historical books still.

I’m surprised because I usually read one every two months. It’s the season of historical novels!

So this book. What a catchy cover. What a catchy title. A title that gives absolutely nothing away about this book. Don’t ask me to analyze it for you, fellow humans, because it’ll take me some time to get back to you. Plus I already have five deep ethics-related questions every week to answer, so yeah.

This is a rare book. I don’t remember ever reading one that is set in Alaska, let alone Alaska in the 70s. You know, I had no idea people there have responded negatively about becoming a state and even fought against it.

A lot of people in Alaska have lost their right to hunt and fish after Alaska became a state. The author doesn’t mention why or how they became a state or so briefly I forgot, which I’m disappointed about, so this book clearly lacks in relevant historical detail/background.

But after all, it’s mainly about the characters, not (relevant) historical events. Indeed, it’s narrated from four distinct point of views. For such a short book, I think four is a little much, especially since the chapters are not super short, so if there’s a character you don’t like, you have to stick with them for around fourteen pages. Which doesn’t sound like much, but it feels interminable when a character bores you.

This is what happened for me. I did not care as much for Dora and Alyce as I did for Hank (the only guy!) and Ruth, who was my absolutely favourite. This book could have been about Ruth alone and I would have been extremely happy with the author.

There really are beautiful themes in this book. It’s about growing up; it’s about following one’s dreams; it’s about imperfect families; and it’s about forgiveness. This is exactly the kind of book my English teachers would love to make us read in class. Also, Canada is another setting, so yay!


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2 thoughts on “The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

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