Hello! In hopes of starting out strong and staying consistent, I decided to kick off with a book review. As the title suggests, it’s for The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock.

The Smell of Other People's Houses book cover
  • Release date: Feb 23, 2016
  • Age demographic: YA
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction


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.
Four very different lives are about to become entangled.

My thoughts

I have a soft spot for coming of age stories set in small towns – maybe because I myself am a small town girl. So, when my library got The Smell of Other People’s Houses, I decided to pick it up. I’ve read Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s second novel, Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town, and loved it, so my expectations were high. And they were definitely met.

First of all, I absolutely loved the setting. I’ve never been to America, and I don’t know much about Alaska, especially in the 70s, yet the setting really spoke to me and made me feel incredible nostalgia. There’s something so comfortable about completely immersing yourself in a story where the cast of characters is small and everyone seems to know each other and affect each other’s lives. That, mixed with Hitchcock’s writing, was perfection. It’s kind of hard to believe it is her debut novel, because she has a very distinct voice.

The story focuses on 4 characters and is told from their points of view. Even though seemingly separate at the start, with every chapter their stories connect more and more. Life isn’t easy for those teens, and there are many important and uncomfortable subjects being discussed, from abuse and poverty to alcoholism, yet the overall feeling of the book is hopeful. Honestly, I didn’t necessarily connect with all 4 characters, as Dora wasn’t the most likeable, and Hank just didn’t fully mesh with me, I still cared about their storylines. All four were fantastically developed, but I liked Ruth the most.

The Smell of Other People’s Houses isn’t a very plot driven story, so if you need that to enjoy a book, it might not be your cup of tea. It is evenly paced, though, and a fast read, because it’s quite short (under 300 pages). The main focus is on the characters lives and a big theme carried throughout the story is that of found family, which I absolutely loved.

We don’t have to be blood to be family.

Rating and recommendations

This book was nearly perfect for me. It had everything I want from contemporary novels, and I loved the writing style, the story’s setting and its message. But I didn’t connect deeply with all the characters, which made me enjoy their chapters a small bit less.

For fans of:

Small town vibes, coming of age stories, found family trope

Have you read The Smell of Other People’s Houses? If so, I’d love to know what you thought of it!

Thanks for reading.

Talk soon!

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