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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Waiting on Wednesday: The List

7 03 2012



The List
Release Date: April 2012 by PUSH

An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two

This one just sounds really amazing. And being a major lover of contemporary YA, I can totally jump ALL over this. It’s been really well received with a bunch of starred reviews and I’m super excited to read it (and it comes out my birthday month, hint hint).





Upcoming YA Books

9 10 2011

-SPECIAL POST-

So, I decided to add a special post. This one is mostly just pictures and words, though. I was browsing GoodReads, and through their amazing Listopia feature I found some interesting books I plan to read in 2012. The following are the covers and pitches, along with some small commentary.

The Disenchantments-Nina LaCour

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev’s band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she’s abandoning their plans—and Colby—to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie-Colby struggles to deal with Bev’s already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what’s next?

Morris Award–finalist Nina LaCour draws together the beauty and influences of music and art to brilliantly capture a group of friends on the brink of the rest of their lives.

Why I Want to Read It: LaCour’s first novel, Hold Still, was amazing, and ARC readers have said that this is great. I loved Hold Still and it seems like LaCour is a promising author. Also? Bad girl band? Wandering around Europe? I’m so in.
The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
This one only has a cover (that isn’t final, mind you)

Why I Want to Read It:  All of John Green’s books are amazing, and he’s a wonderful vlogger as well. I respect him both as a person and a writer, and I’m excited to see what he comes up with next (having enjoyed all of his books). Also, female narrator=JG first? I’m in.

Wanderlove – Kirsten Hubbard

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry into this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.

Why I Wanna Read It: Parts of it sound cliche, but it still seems fun. I have an ARC of this I need to read, and it sounds like an interesting read. Hubbard’s first novel was well recieved and she is an elegant writer.
Second Chance Summer – Morgan Matson
Taylor’s family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it’s stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they’ve ever been before. But all of them very aware that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love.

Why I Want to Read It: Matson’s first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour was a detour of amazingness, and this one sounds like Matson: beautiful, touching, and tinged with first love. I adored her first novel and will be looking for this one.
Irises-Francisco X. Stork


Two sisters discover what’s truly worth living for in the new novel by the author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD.
TWO SISTERS: Kate is bound for Stanford and an M.D. — if her family will let her go. Mary wants only to stay home and paint. When their loving but repressive father dies, they must figure out how to support themselves and their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state, and how to get along in all their uneasy sisterhood.
THREE YOUNG MEN: Then three men sway their lives: Kate’s boyfriend Simon offers to marry her, providing much-needed stability. Mary is drawn to Marcos, though she fears his violent past. And Andy tempts Kate with more than romance, recognizing her ambition because it matches his own.
ONE AGONIZING CHOICE: Kate and Mary each find new possibilities and darknesses in their sudden freedom. But it’s Mama’s life that might divide them for good — the question of *if* she lives, and what’s worth living for.
IRISES is Francisco X. Stork’s most provocative and courageous novel yet.

Why I Want To Read It: Loved all of Stork’s other novels (recongizing a pattern?) and he always has interesting, thought provoking books. Should be an interesting read.

Boy21-Matthew Quick

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights and Finley is left alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He’s always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. The life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won’t pick up a basketball, and yet answers only to the name Boy21—taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need. Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of Sorta Like a Rock Star, brings readers a moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption.

Why I Wanna Read It: Matthew Quick had an azming first novel…okay, fine, that’s what I’ve said for every one. 😛 Great plot, sounds like a tearjerker.

Insurgent-Veronica Roth

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Why I Wanna Read It: Divergent took me by surprise, and while it had it flaws, it was just a fun romp of a dystopia. I’m interested to find what will happen next, and Roth is a promising new author. (Again: I’ve called everyone that, but they all are. :P)

Slide-Jill Hathaway

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

“Jill Hathaway provides a fresh, vibrant voice to young adult literature. Skillfully filled with drama and tension, SLIDE is part mystery, part romance, and wholly engaging with its strong heroine and tornado-worthy twists. I simply could not put this book down.” ~Laurie Stolarz, DEADLY LITTLE SECRET

“Heartbreaking and heart-pounding at the same time! A wonderful, intense story, SLIDE had me hooked from the first moment Vee slid into someone else’s mind. I stayed up way too late because I had to see how it ended.” ~Cynthia Hand, UNEARTHLY(less)

 
Why I Wanna Read It: I know nothing about Hathaway, but this is a really interesting and unique concept and I’m curious where the author will take it.
 
Above-Leah Bobet
Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above–like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.
But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home–not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.
ABOVE is the debut of an amazing new voice.
Why I Wanna Read This: Amazing concept 101, anyone? This sounds very unique and different, and the MCs don’t usually posess bee’s wings.
Winterling-Sarah Prineas
“What a wonderful, imaginative alternate world Prineas has created for this book!” –Kristin Cashore, author of the New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire.

“Filled with wonder and with characters both devious and charming, Winterling is a mischievous delight!” –Ingrid Law, New York Times bestselling author of Scumble and the Newbery honor book Savvy.

With her boundless curiosity and wild spirit, Fer has always felt that she doesn’t belong. Not when the forest is calling to her, when the rush of wind through branches feels more real than school or the quiet farms near her house. Then she saves an injured creature—he looks like a boy, but he’s really something else. He knows who Fer truly is, and invites her through the Way, a passage to a strange, dangerous land.

Fer feels an instant attachment to this realm, where magic is real and oaths forge bonds stronger than iron. But a powerful huntress named the Mor rules here, and Fer can sense that the land is perilously out of balance. Fer must unlock the secrets about the parents she never knew and claim her true place before the worlds on both sides of the Way descend into endless winter.

Sarah Prineas captivates in this fantasy-adventure about a girl who must find within herself the power to set right a terrible evil.

Why I Wanna Read It: This kinda violates the YA genre, but Prineas is one of my favorite MG fantasy novelists. She’s succeeded over and over again and I think Winterling will be no exception.
The Gathering Storm – Robin Bridges
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.
An evil presence is growing within Europe’s royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina’s strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina’s help to safeguard Russia, even if he’s repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.
The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?
Why I Wanna read It: Historical romance/fantasy? Sounds interesting! Plus, Russian history always sounds good. Getting an ARC of this soon, so we’ll see.
The Drowned Cities – Paolo Bacigalupi
Again, no pitch, just this:
Why I Wanna Read This: SQUEE! A sequel to Ship Breaker, one of my favorite sci-fi novels? SO. IN. Bacigalupi is one of my favorite authors, for his goregous prose and characters, and I cannot wait to enter Nailer’s world again in May 2012 (such a long time D:).
 
May B – Caroline Starr Rose
 
Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, or May B. as she is known, is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead, “Just until Christmas,” says her Pa. Twelve-year-old May wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by fifteen long, unfamiliar miles.

Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned to the oncoming winter, trapped all alone in a tiny snow-covered sod house without any way to let her family know and no neighbors to turn to. In her solitude, she wavers between relishing her freedom and succumbing to utter despair, while trying to survive in the harshest conditions. Her physical struggle to first withstand and then to escape her prison is matched by tormenting memories of her failures at school. Only a very strong girl will be able to stand up to both and emerge alive and well.

In this debut novel written in gripping verse, Caroline Starr Rose has given readers a new heroine to root for, one who never, ever gives up.

Why I Want to Read This: Ooh, historical fiction MG is always one of my favorites. Slightly predictable, maybe, but sounds interesting nontheless.
LAST ONE, I PROMISE:
The Vanishing Game – Kate Kae Myers
Jocelyn’s twin brother Jack was the only family she had growing up in a world of foster homes-and now he’s dead, and she has nothing. Then she gets a cryptic letter from “Jason December”-the code name her brother used to use when they were children at Seale House, a terrifying foster home that they believed had dark powers. Only one other person knows about Jason December: Noah, Jocelyn’s childhood crush and their only real friend among the troubled children at Seale House.

But when Jocelyn returns to Seale House and the city where she last saw Noah, she gets more than she bargained for. Turns out the house’s powers weren’t just a figment of a childish imagination. And someone is following Jocelyn. Is Jack still alive? And if he is, what kind of trouble is he in? The answer is revealed in a shocking twist that turns this story on its head and will send readers straight back to page 1 to read the book in a whole new light.

Why I Wanna Read It: It sounds interesting and cryptic, and the cover is spooky but so amazing O_O
So there you have it, the 14 books I found and instantly wanted to read. I’ll probably do another post like this soon, since there are so many books I want to read. 2012 sure has a heck of a lot of a good books coming.