MK’s Book Reviews: My Life Next Door

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So after this book, I was in need of an antidote, in the way of some lighter fare. I chose Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door.

…and I do not regret it.

This was a sweet, well-written, relatable YA romance that had me turning the pages as fast as I could.

First, the summary from Goodreads:

“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, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

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

So this could have easily been too fluffy for me–rich, attractive girl falls for poor, attractive boy–but Fitzpatrick’s writing and characters kept it from being so. The characters, even the ones you don’t like, felt like real people. The Connecticut town this is set in feels like a real town. Also, it just sucks you in from the beginning:

The Garretts were forbidden from the start.

But that’s not why they were important.

We were standing in our yard that day ten years ago when their battered sedan pulled up to the low-slung shingled house next door, close behind the moving van.

“Oh no,” Mom sighed, arms falling to her sides. “I hoped we could have avoided this.”

“This–what?” my big sister called from down the driveway. She was eight and already restless with Mom’s chore of the day, planting jonquil bulbs in our front garden. Walking quickly to the picket fence that divided our house from the one next door, she perched on her tiptoes to peer at the new neighbors. I pressed my face to the gap in the slats, watching in amazement as two parents and five children spilled from the sedan, like a clown car at the circus.

I adore stories about big, loud families–maybe because I’ve always wanted one. And I really did liked that it was told from the point of view of an outsider–Samantha, whose family is tiny and not loud at all.

I think the one quibble I would have with this book is that Samantha is not the most super-relatable protagonist. I much prefer stories about outsiders, not about beautiful perfect teenagers, because that’s not something I relate to well. But she was really great at describing her surroundings, and I liked seeing the Garretts through her eyes (though the small children occasionally said things no small child would ever say). I also really liked the sub-plot with Nan and Tim. What I’m saying is that the secondary characters make up for the fact that the protagonist was not all that interesting in her own right.

There also wasn’t a tremendous amount of plot to begin with–but again, the characters and setting were so well-drawn that this didn’t bug me. And then when something big did happen, it was so huge I was flying through the pages. I did think the ending was too neatly wrapped in a bow–surely there would have been bigger consequences to what happened. But overall, I really liked this book and am definitely looking forward to the companion novel (which stars Tim and Alice, infinitely more interesting people than Samantha!)

7/10 stars

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