Thursday 13 September 2018

No Fixed Address - Susin Nielsen

No Fixed Address
Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books
ISBN 9780735262751
eISBN 9780735262768

I became interested in this book because of a shout put by Arthur Slade. He spoke so highly about it, I knew I had to give it a read. Being completely honest I had not encountered any of Susin Neilsen's works before giving this one a read, even in my years as a bookseller. As an introduction to her works this book was an incredible read. Once I started reading I could hardly put it down. This book is moving. It does an amazing job of capturing living with someone with mental health issues, and either being close to or living on the street.

This is the story of Felix Knuttson, a twelve year old boy with great skill at trivia. His other skill is covering for his mother. For the longest time it has just been him and his mom. His father has returned to the art scene in Toronto after realizing that he preferred men. His mother is an artist who has had some success, and a lot of failures. She seems to be able to land jobs but had a hard time keeping them. And she has proven to have a hard time at keeping a place for them. And that is where we begin with this novel. Felix and his mother have been living in a van. They have moved it around. Felix is trying to hold it together at school and help keep his mother together. What starts as a few weeks in a van stretches, and stretches, from a summer novelty, to school returning, and fall turning to winter. Felix has a chance to compete on a national quiz show. The weekly episodes are pre-filmed, but the finale is aired live. Some secrets are just too hard to keep in.

Many years ago, I was in a place where each month I wondered if I would have a roof over my head at the end of the month. I cannot imagine being in that place and being a youth looking after a parent. But I know that it happens. This book does an incredible job of capturing that. In university and after I lived with a few friends who have struggled with mental health. Watching them spiral down and not being able to do anything is a terrible feeling. Nielsen has captured that feeling perfectly.

This novel is written for a Middle Grade or Young Adult audience, but I am sure it will transcend those genres. But by combining the underlying themes of split families, depression, mental health, and homelessness it touches on so many issues in contemporary society. This is an amazing read that will help you look at the world a little differently.

Books by Susin Nielson:
We Are All Made of Molecules
Optimists Die First
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
Word Nerd
Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom
No Fixed Address
The Magic Beads
My Messed-Up Life

Degrassi Books:
Shane (Degrassi, #12)
Melanie (Degrassi, #13)
Wheels (Degrassi, #17)
Snake (Degrassi, #18)

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