Fiction Books, Middle Grade Books

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielson – Book Review

I picked this book up at the Northern YA Literary Festival and I’m glad I did because I really loved this book! This story deals with a topic that is so relevant in todays society and it was really well done!

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Rating: 5/5

You can read the synopsis here from Goodreads:

Felix Knuttson, twelve, is an endearing kid with an incredible brain for trivia. His mom Astrid is loving but unreliable; she can’t hold onto a job, or a home. When they lose their apartment in Vancouver, they move into a camper van, just for August, till Astrid finds a job. September comes, they’re still in the van; Felix must keep “home” a secret and give a fake address in order to enroll in school. Luckily, he finds true friends. As the weeks pass and life becomes grim, he struggles not to let anyone know how precarious his situation is. When he gets to compete on a national quiz show, Felix is determined to win — the cash prize will bring them a home. Their luck is about to change! But what happens is not at all what Felix expected.

This story is both heart breaking yet it still makes you smile. It deals with homelessness, mental health and friendships and it does it really well. It is told from the point of view of 12 year old Felix who lives with his mum Astrid and due to a lot of different issues in their life they end up homeless and living in a van. He has to navigate a new school and friends without letting them find out that he is homeless and that comes with lots of problems and him having to lie about where he lives.

Felix has had to deal with so much in his life that it has made him mature for his, sensible and has learned how to cope with everything that is thrown at him better than I think most adults could handle. He always puts on a brave face and is so resilient. As their living situation gets worse they have to resort to things which he is uncomfortable with. He has moral dilemmas about having to steal food but ultimately has to be able to eat. He is a good person and he always wants to do what is right. I felt so bad for him as he was put in horrible situations that no child should have to deal with but I also admired the way he handled everything.

His mum, Astrid has a lot to deal with too, she has mental health issues and although we’re not told directly, the way she was indicated that she had depression as she would suffer from what Felix called “slumps.” Although she isn’t a horrible mother, she isn’t the best mother either. She is unable to hold a job because she tends to be rude to customers and has to lie in her job interviews to be able to get another job. But it is clear from their relationship that she loves him very much and he loves her.

Reading this book made me think about everything that we take for granted, from a safe, warm place to sleep to hot food and access to a shower and bathroom. We don’t realise how important these basic necessities are to having a good quality until we don’t have them anymore and it makes you appreciate these so much more.

Another thing I loved was the friendships in this book. Felix has some wonderful friends, both Dylan and Winnie are supportive and even though they may not always know what to do they are always there for him. They don’t judge him or make him feel like he should be embarrassed for his situation, instead they subtly bring more food in their lunches to share with him. I also loved that a teacher noticed that something was wrong with Felix’s situation and he tried to help Felix too along with other members of the community once people find out about their situation.

I enjoyed the inclusion of the game show in the story and how it gave hope to Felix to be able to solve their money problems and it did result in them getting the help they need but not in the way they had initially imagined.

This is a book that is relevant in todays society with the increase in homelessness and this book makes us think about how people can become homeless and that we should have more compassion and not make assumptions about them.