Behind Closed Doors – Miriam Halahmy

Until I was ten years old I thought everybody had Christmas in the bedroom.’

behind closed doorsFifteen year olds Tasha and Josie are near-neighbours. But when their families let them down, they find themselves unlikely allies in a battle for survival. Josie s mum is saving the planet by collecting most of it, but her house is no longer safe for her own daughter. Tasha has all the clothes and kit a girl could want, but feels increasingly unnerved by her mother s new boyfriend. Both girls turn to each other for help when they find themselves on the brink of being made homeless

 

What I thought

The strength of this book rests on the way you never know what’s happening in other peoples lives and how in this modern day social media world we know less and not more like people think. What we put on social media is only the highlights and not what we want other people to see or know. You’re not going to post on there all anything you are ashamed about and both Tasha and Josie are ashamed about what happens at home. Tasha does everything she can to make herself appear to just be an normal popular teen who has all the things she wants and wears the right clothes, in an attempt to blend in with the crowd. Whilst Josie is without friends and therefore doesn’t have to worry about people asking questions. She’s just the weird kid at school who sits at the side and watches life go by. The two girls are very different characters who wouldn’t normally interact with each other but are forced to because of circumstances outside of their control. And as their relationship and friendship grows they realise they have much more in common than anyone would think.  With two very different positions in school Josie and Tasha grow to not only like each other but to rely on each other for help and to not end up on the street.

Apart from seeing hoarders on Channel 4 ‘documentaries’ I’ve never seen it in popular culture or books before. It’s more than just not getting rid of stuff and really is a mental illness, Josie’s mum is so desperate to save the world that she goes to charity shops and buys everything she can to make sure it doesn’t get thrown away. The sad truth is that she really thinks that by filling their house with rubbish and tat that she’s saving the world. She’s unable to see that their house is overflowing and that Josie has no space, she doesn’t even have a functioning bathroom. This book really showed the horrors of living with a hoarder, Throughout most of the book Josie continues to defend her mum and make excuses. She doesn’t want to admit that her mother is ill or that anything is wrong. Whatever you grow up with is normal and being forced to admit that it isn’t is hard. At the opening of the book Josie admits that she thought everyone had Christmas in their bedroom, because why would she think otherwise? The fact that they have Christmas in the bedroom because there is literally no room in the rest oi the house doesn’t even factor into her mind. It’s just how things are.
What I found really impressive was the was that the overfilled house was represented in the writing, reading it felt very claustrophobic. You could feel the walls of ‘stuff’ all around you. Its a difficult thing to get across in the writing and in the tone but was done really well. Whenever the scene was in Josie’s house the sense of toppling piles all around and having very little space to move came across really strongly.

In contrast to the claustrophobic-ness of Josie’s house the scene’s in Tasha’ house feel very light and open until the Mum’s boyfriend appeared and then the space would suddenly feel small and claustrophobic again but in a very different way. It became very ominous whenever he was around and uncomfortable to read about. I would keep having to look up and out of the book at the park around me and the beautiful summer sky and day that was happening in the ‘real’ world. The saddest scenes were the ones that felt the most true, Tasha’s mum believed the boyfriend over her. She would constantly say that Tasha was being paranoid and that she was reading too much into things. As a reader that made me feel angry but the truth of the matter is this isn’t common. A lot of people do side with their partner over their children and sadly it’s the reason why many kids are on the street. They might not have been kicked out but they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in their own home. With their parents ignoring their feeling many feel as though they have no other choice.
Sofa surfing doesn’t count as homelessness because they aren’t out on the street even though they don’t have a home to call their own. What I loved about this book is how much art imitates life in the way that Tasha refuses to admit she’s homeless.

Why I read it

This book was a present from myself, in the sense that I had honestly forgotten I’d pre-ordered it. I almost certainly pre-ordered it because of things that someone had said something about it in the #UKYAchat. I read it that day as I’d finished ‘In Your Light’ earlier that morning on the train to work.

Final Thought

This was a really well written book looking into teenage homelessness and how you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Josie and Tasha are both brilliant characters going through really difficult experiences but who are in denial about how difficult things are as they try to live their lives as normally as possible. The two girls grow in strength and confidence throughout the book and give each other the strength to face what they are going through.

Would I recommend? It can be an uncomfortable read but is a good one. Well worth a read

Challenges

PopSugar: LGBTQ+ protagonist, published in 2018, problem facing society today.
Day 4 of NaNo was brought to you from the Brighton write-in. I have also officially finished June. I’m now only 4 months behind in my reviews…
As always please leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you have to say and if my words have made you interested in reading the book.
Rea
P.S Day 5 is ‘Otherworld by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller
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