Monday, July 9, 2018
Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. 276 p. Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House Children's Books, September 11, 2018. 9781524768348. (Review from arc courtesy of the publisher.)
We know immediately that something huge has happened to twelve-year-old Felix Knuttson because he's asking a police officer if he's going to be interrogated. He's seen the procedure on t.v. and wonders if his mother, Astrid is being interrogated in another room. He's assured they are not. He's also outraged because they didn't commit any crimes, the criminals got away and Felix and his mom are at the police station.
Once Felix realizes this sympathetic police officer knows the secret he was sworn to keep, Felix explains how their temporary housing crisis came to be. Felix and Astrid were not always between addresses. For the first part of Felix's fatherless life, the two lived with Mormor, his Swedish grandmother, in Astrid's childhood home. Readers learn, through Felix's matter-of-fact, earnest and endearing narrative about how he developed his love for a trivia game show, Who, What, Where, When, thanks to Mormor, who also made his tomte, a gnome-like creature from Swedish folklore (p.8) that Felix carries everywhere.
After Felix's mormor died, Astrid sold the home and purchased a condo. Astrid lost both her jobs and the building began to sink because it was built on a riverbank. Astrid could not afford the cost of repair and so the condo was sold at a loss. And so, the family downsized again and again, each place a bit danker than the last, until they found themselves evicted and an abusive ex-boyfriend's van was the only option.
It was temporary, Astrid said. It was even fun, until the Vancouver summer turned to fall. Astrid managed to get Felix enrolled in a French immersion school. There, he reunited with an old friend and made a new one. He was happy there but their secret was getting harder and harder to keep what with the availability of showers and clean laundry limited. But Astrid's warning that he would be taken away from her and put in a foster home compelled Felix to stay silent. It was easier to lose friends than to lose Astrid.
Though there is plenty of heartbreak here, Felix is resilient and loves his mom fiercely. He buys into her lies and supports her unconditionally. Until he can't and makes a life-changing decision. Felix is a winning narrator and the reader's heart will break for him again and again; but there's humor and hope to balance things out.
Give No Fixed Address to readers who enjoy humor in their sad books or to fans of How to Steal a Dog or Crenshaw or fans of Nielsen's We are All Made of Molecules and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. Readers will laugh, cry and perhaps examine their assumptions about the homeless. No Fixed Address is a first-purchase. I can't wait to hand this to my students come fall.
ETA: I forgot to mention that I adore this cover!