My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

29 05 2012

 

 

 

 

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 am a complete unabashed lover of all things contemporary, and when I first heard of My Life Next Door I was excited. The book had a great concept — a girl in love with a boy, looking out her window and wishing that she had his life — and while it seemed a bit too much on the romance end for my tastes I was excited when I recieved an ARC for review.

Samantha Reed has the perfect life — or she should have the perfect life. Her mother is a high ranking senator, she has great friends, she’s popular, she has a good job. But she doesn’t care. Next door live the humongous family of the Garrets, with a gaggle of children. The Garrets are loud, they’re noisy, they’re somewhat obnoxious and often ridiculed for having so many children. And for Samantha, in her sort of own little world that’s supposedly perfect, this noise is what she dreams of — something that is so different from her house’s silence. So she watches the Garrets every night, admiring their chaos. When she starts to become closer to Jase — a hot Garrett near her age — she becomes more aquainted with the family and starts to leave her silent world. But of course, tragedy strikes and she must decide which family will help her.

One of the reasons I was so interested in reading My Life Next Door was the family aspect. (And I just checked when I added the book; Goodreads tells me September — wow). I love family stories, learning about a family’s own little subculture and their quirks and habits. My favorite parts of the plot were probably when Samantha intracted with all the Garrets. The Garrets are such a family; they argue and fight and have a “talking stick” to navigate family discussions. The people in the family are so realistic too — George is basically the quintessential preschooler, Dusty and the younger  brothers are elementary school personified, Jase and the older brothers are high school exactly, Alice is the college student.

When I read these scenes, I couldn’t help but smile — they seemed so realistic and the characters seemed like real people. They seemed like someone you would see in your neighborhood and talk to.

In other regards to the plot, I felt that the subplots were a bit finicky. The main subplots are Samantha’s fight with her best friend and her mother’s attempt to become reelected. Neither of these subplots ever seemed very developed and they both ended, for me, in very predictable ways. The mother’s plot is that she is dating a skeevy man working on her campaign and while I felt that she seemd realisticly engrossed in politics, I guessed what would happen right away. With the friendship plot Samantha and her best friend Nan have had a bit of a falling out — this plot seemed more cliche to me, as this same storyline (while important) has happened in many, many other good books. Both of the subplots seemed kind of shoved into the book, thrown in to add more “spice” to the story, and they seemed to detract from the main points of the story: the families and the (ah-ha) romance.

This review is already over five hundred words (long reviews ftw) and I haven’t even mentioned the romance. (Of course I wouldn’t discuss the romance for 556 words). The romance is the key selling point of the book. It isn’t the family or the politics or the best friend stories. While the family aspect is important, and the politics and best friend subplots also have their own importance, the main thing that this book has been marketed as is a

“ya contemporary teen romace, guareenteed to take your breath away”

and, yeah, that’s a cliche descriptor, but will it sell books? Will people go OMG I want my breath taken away and snatch up this book for $17.99 at their bookstore or online? Yes. But in terms of My Life Next Doorromance, this may not be the best descriptor. I felt that there was hardly any romance. There was romance, but it didn’t “take my breath away” and I felt like the book was really more about family then romance.

Jace and Samantha are in a relationship, and they are happy, and their romance is sweet — kissing and the “next level” — but I never really felt it. I never really felt those sparks and that love. It was sweet and happy and I would give the book to someone who enjoys romance, but for me I never felt their love. To be honest, I felt the love of the mom and her boyfriend more.

This book is Fitzpatrick’s debut novel, and she is a very strong writer. The writing was clear and easy to read, with a strong voice for Samantha.

I think that this would be a good book for readers interested in romance, but it would also be a good read for those interested in family stories. The book is a strong debut and I’m interested to see what Fitzpatrick writes next.

3 stars.

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I received this book as an ARC from Penguin.

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