|Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads|
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 14, 2012
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
Book-A-Likes: Sarah Dessen books