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No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen - Review

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Where did I get it? I picked up this proof copy at Northern YA Lit Fest two years ago. I had read Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen previously and had enjoyed it, so I picked this up. Then recently I was in the "library" (aka my back bedroom, which is tiny and holds a bed and 800 books) and noticed it, so I thought I'd pull it out to read. 

What's it about? Felix is almost thirteen years old and lives in Vancouver with his mum, Astrid (who he calls Astrid). At the beginning of the novel, Felix is talking to a police officer, so it's obvious something terrible has happened. He goes back over the previous four months of his and Astrid's lives. 

Astrid lost her job and they were evicted from an apartment, and then she broke up with her boyfriend Abelard and he was going travelling in India, so Astrid takes his camper van and she and Felix end up living in it. She swears it's temporary until she gets a new job. They hear about a French immersion programme at a nearby school, so Astrid lies and puts an address in the catchment area so that Felix can get a place in the programme. His dad, Daniel, is half French and half Haitian, so Felix is keen to learn French. On his first day at school he meets up with Dylan, a friend of his from a previous school that he has lost touch with thanks to his and Astrid's many moves. The two quickly become friends again, and also end up reluctantly becoming friends with a girl called Winnie, who is bossy and opinionated and very good at French. 

Astrid swears the van is just temporary, but time ticks on, and the weather gets colder, and Felix is really sick of washing in park toilets and never having clean laundry. Then there comes an opportunity for him to go on a kids' game show and win $25,000 which would be enough for the two of them to find an apartment for good!

There's loads more in the book, I've really simplified it there. Astrid struggles to find work, struggles with her mental health. Felix avoids the van and spends loads of time at Dylan's house. He avoids telling anyone where he lives because then social services will get involved, and Astrid had a bad experience with them as a kid herself, thanks to her abusive father. She is resistant to asking for help and ends up shoplifting sometimes. Felix is a kid falling through the cracks and I loved him and wanted only the best for him. 

What age range is it for? 12 onwards I'm going to say 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Felix's dad Daniel, although not a main character really, is gay. There are some other queer characters around too. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yep, Felix is mixed race! Astrid's background is Swedish and Daniel, as I said, is half French and half Haitian. Winnie has Asian background, but I can't remember where her parents are from without looking. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Astrid has mental health problems which I thought were really well portrayed, and also the fact that she couldn't afford to buy her medication at one point. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Only the prescription meds Astrid takes

Is there any talk of death? Yeah, it's a little graphic but appropriate for the age 

Are there swear words? Not really 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none! This is a very perfect middle grade book showing an all too realistic story about poverty 

Would I recommend the book? Yes definitely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I just remembered how much I wanted to read it when I saw it! 

What do I think of the cover? Well I have a proof copy with no cover, but my librarian friend says she's bought Susin's books because of their covers, so I guess they're good! 

What other books is it like? It's like her other books, I think 

How many stars? Ten out of ten

Where is the book going now? Oh I'm keeping it for sure!  

No Fixed Address was published in September 2018 by Andersen Press. I was given a free copy of the novel but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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