Can you ever feel at home when your ‘house’ is always on the move?
Felix and his mom Astrid have a secret: they are living in a van. Astrid promises it’s only til she finds a new job and begs Felix not to breathe a word. So when Felix starts a new school, he does his best to hide it, even though his home has some serious downsides, like no privacy, heating, space or bathroom.
But Felix has a plan to turn their lives around. All he needs is a little luck a lot of brain power…
This is another book, a bit like ‘The List of Real Things’ that straddles the MG/YA age range. Technically YA, it would be best suited to younger YA readers or more mature MG readers ready to start reading slightly older books. It tackles the serious, all-too relevant and sadly all-too prevalent issue of homelessness, but with humour, hope and a lot of luck involved, preventing it from becoming too weighty, serious or bleak.
It highlights in particular the ‘hidden homeless’ – a worryingly high number of people (hat is sadly only getting higher) who, for one reason or another (losing their jobs, finding their tenancies unexpectedly ended, illness etc.), find themselves without a fixed place to live: not (yet) sleeping rough, but for example on the couches of friends, in hostels, or in the case of Felix and his mum Astrid in the story, in cars or vans.
I thought Susin Nielsen did a wonderful job at highlighting the many challenges this throws up – both practically and emotionally – with a real lightness of touch and without it becoming a heavy, ‘preachy’ or depressing read. While your heart goes out to Felix as he tries to hide his home-life from people at school, including his friends, there is plenty of humour within the book, not least between him and his best friend Dylan to counteract it. Felix himself is an enormously likeable main character – determined, resilient and ever the optimist – and I thought his mum Astrid was well-written too.
The direction the book takes as Felix tries to find a way out of their desperate situation is somewhat whimsical and highly unlikely, but it works wonderfully within the context and feel of the rest of the book. Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination (and if I’m honest, it all gets tied off a bit too neatly for me by the end) but it’s an enjoyable, easy to read book with an important message and a feel-good, optimistic heart.