There are books that just touch you as being special. This is one of those books. Thank you to the @kidlitexchange network and the wonderful world of Instagram book reviewers for introducing me to this amazing book.
No Fixed Address tells the story of Felix Knutsson. Felix is just your average 7th grader who happens to be really amazing at trivia. He is doing his best to fit in and is thrilled to have two great friends, Dylan and Winnie. But what no one knows, is that since August, Felix and his mother have been living in their van.
There is so much to love about this book. It is an important look at poverty and homelessness in our country and others. It is a book about empathy and in trusting those around you. And it is a book about doing the right thing.
Felix’s mother just can’t seem to hold a job. What we don’t understand until later in the book is that, in addition to not being fabulous in the service industry, Astrid is probably dealing with pretty severe depression. When she simply couldn’t get out of bed for days at a time, it became really obvious to me. In the past, when they lived with Felix’s grandmother, her “episodes” were not such a big deal, but now that they are relying on her for everything, if she can’t move, they don’t eat. People don’t want to talk about mental issues, but they are often at the heart of many problems that we face. Instead of talking about them, heartbreaking things like finding yourself on the street is often the outcome.
Second, while many think that there are so people out there who want handouts, Astrid is too proud to take them or any other kind of help. Astrid doesn’t want anyone to know that they are living in a van. That has rubbed off of Felix who doesn’t want any of his friends to know either. But sometimes it is okay to accept help. Would it really have been so horrible to stay at a shelter or go to a soup kitchen? Instead she resorts to stealing. On the flip side, Felix still knows that stealing is wrong and keeps an actual log of all of the money that they owe various stores so he can pay them back.
Third, this book highlights the power of having your own tribe to go to when things go bad. To be willing to rely on others when you need help, because we all need help from time to time. Felix keeps everything from Dylan and Winnie until it gets so bad that he is desperate. His teacher knows that something is up, but can’t get any answers either. When Felix realizes that he and Astrid are not alone in the world and that there are people who care, it is an eye-opening moment for him.
Susan Nielsen did a really wonderful job of making this story come alive. Felix is a real kid and you can understand the confusion and frustration that he goes through. The desire to get help, but to also put his mother first. The many characters that tried to help are what we should all hope to be. I inhaled this in one day, and while I expected the happy ending that of course happened, you are never quite sure exactly how they are going to get there. Powerful message with a solid story line that doesn’t feel forced or dogmatic in any way. Great for 5th and 6th graders! My 6th grader LOVED this book as well.