Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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Title:  My Life Next Door
Author:  Huntley Fitzpatrick
Series:  n/a
Publisher:  Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  June 14, 2012
Source:  Netgalley

A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.


I’m normally a sci-fi/paranormal fan, but it doesn’t hurt to change up the repertoire every now and then.  So, this year I’ve decided to give young adult contemporaries a chance to prove to me that they are not insipid drivel and more than something to read simply to pass the time.  My Life Next Door is the second one I’ve read this year, and it’s the second one I’ve loved, the first being The Catastrophic History of You and Me.  And I have quite a few more on my summer TBR pile.  I hope they all surprise me and end up being just as good as these two.

I think what I liked best about this novel was the realistic portrayal of two very different families.  We’ve all lived near a family like the Garretts.  Loud, rambunctious, messy.  Raucous to the casual observer.  And we’ve all encountered the likes of the prim and proper Reeds, with their too perfect house, their manicured lawn and just a general air of stuffiness about them.  For these two groups of people to coexist on the same block would be a sight to behold, wouldn’t it?  Well, that’s just what happened when the Garretts moved next door to the Reeds.  But here they are, more than a decade later, and neither family knows the other any better than the first time they laid eyes on each other.

So, how is it that this is a love story about a Garrett boy and the younger Reed girl?  I found myself asking that same question.  WHY did Jason Garrett decide to talk to Samantha Reed all these years later?  What motivated this initial contact after so many years of un-neighborly silence?  I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.  But what I can tell you is that this one interaction evolves into a very sweet, touching romance…the kind I wish all YA romances could measure up to.

Over the course of the summer, their romance develops into something more serious, and the couple faces some real-life issues over the course of their relationship.  But they remain honest with each other and take things slowly.  Jase and Sam maintain open communication and have frank discussions about everything from the physicalities of their relationship to college and the future to their very different home lives.  These kids are responsible, not just in their choices but also in their actions and treatment of others.

And yet it wasn’t just the two main characters’ storyline that I found so engaging.  I loved every single one of the ever-expanding Garrett clan.  There are Jase’s parents, who, after many years of marriage, are still as in love as ever.  And, of course, there are the seven Garrett children.  From the oldest son to the youngest daughter, each character had their quirks and charms and were utterly essential to the story, no matter how minor their characters turned out to be.  That family dynamic is a big part of what made this story so great.  Someone else who made this story awesome?  Sam’s best friend’s twin brother.  Different in every way from his sister, Tim actually used to be the sibling that Sam was closest to when they were younger, and he is quickly becoming the one Sam turns to now.  Tim has substance abuse issues, a poor work ethic, and he’s driving his family crazy.  But if you can endure his outlandish behavior and really see beneath the surface, he’s a really nice guy who just needs someone to take him under their wing and help him make some better decisions.

And that’s essentially what this book was for me:  a book full of hard choices and their equally difficult consequences. It’s not edgy, but it is genuine.  I laughed…a lot.  Then I’d find myself incensed.  I was even shocked at times.  And then I ran that gamut of emotions all over again.  Even so, it was a fun read, a book that I’d recommend to everyone, even those who shy away from contemporary stories, like myself.

My Life Next Door is a beautiful debut full of love and tender moments but one that is also not afraid to cross some lines and make the reader a bit squeamish.  I experienced quite a few emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other while reading this novel, and that’s what sold me on it…that it could pull so many different reactions from me and still leave me wanting more, no matter what direction the story was headed at that particular moment.

**There’s a passage that I rather enjoyed, maybe more than I ought to have, but I’m afraid quoting anything from it might be rather spoilery.  So, just know that the scene (appears around page 182 of the galley) in CVS when Jase and Sam are picking up Gatorade for his sick mom is one of my favorite parts of this book.  (I hope your curiosity gets the best of you and forces you to pick up this book!)  :D

Rating:  Photobucket

Book-A-Likes:  Sarah Dessen books


13 comments:

  1. Contemporary romance has never been my fav and I am new to YA..but have steered clear of YA Contemp..for the very same reasons you stated..i may have to give this one a try...awesome review!

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  2. Aaaa this one is on my wishlist. :3 Glad to see you loved it! :D

    Aleksandra @ Divine Secrets of a Little Bookworm

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    1. At least you don't have to wait very long now! :)

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  3. Yes, my curiosity is now peaked. I'm going to check this one out. Nice review!

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    1. Thanks...I hope you do give it a read! :)

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  4. I'm gonna try to read more contemporary this summer cause i've been drenched in paranormal lately...nice review!

    ~Shane @Itching for books

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    1. Thanks...I usually drench myself in paranormal, too, but I have to admit, this one was a nice change, and it was REALLY good.

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  5. Look at us with our contemps! This one sounds great, Jen! I do believe I will give this one a read. I still prefer a little "monster" in my book, but this genre is a nice change of pace. Wonderful (and convincing)review, BBS!

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    1. Oh, me, too...but it is a nice to take a little detour from the supernatural from time to time. :)

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  6. I love this review! I'm so glad you are picking up contemps. They are not all dribble! I swear!! lol. some are, but most of the ones I have come across are so interesting. And deep. they make some of the parnanormal relaitionsips I read about sound like dribble. I guess the realistic factor.

    I can't wait to read this one. I was a sad panda when I didn't get approved on Net Galley for it, but it's all good. From what i have been reading in reviews, I'll want to own this one anyway.

    I will be looking for that gatorade scene when I read it for sure! Great review! and yay contemps!

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    1. Yeah, I need this one on my shelf, too...I'd definitely re-read it. And don't be sad panda...sometimes the galley gods just aren't feeling generous, that's all. :)

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  7. Samantha is the good daughter. The daughter that doesn't cause any problems. The daughter that mom, the state senator, can count on to always do what she's told and be at her best. So when Sam falls for the guy from "the wrong side of the tracks," that lives next door, Samantha learns to find her own voice and her own place in their family. Then just as true love is blossoming and Samantha has come out with her relationship with Jase, the most unthinkable happens. It's at this point in the book that I just wanted to crawl into the pages and be there for Samantha! Samantha faces some tough decisions, battles through ultimatums, but in the end, good overcomes evil!

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