My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
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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.
Continuing my desire to read contemporary novels to keep from dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy, etc, themes from seeping into my own sci-fi novel, I decided to read this book. I saw it sandwiched next to Morgan Matson (which makes no sense. F? M? Huh?) at Barnes and Noble, and it caught my eye so I bought it. Because I’m an impulse book buyer. I read this yesterday, with the goal of reading half, and instead, I read the entire novel. The entire one. I finished at about 2 am and then was so ready for bed haha.
First off, the characters. I loved the characters that Huntley creates for her novel. Both are incredibly real to me. I loved Samantha, and the sort of opening up she gets in getting to know Jase. Its weird to me, because that is not the life I had but you can see her transformation as time goes on, and her struggle with doing the “right” thing all the time, and meeting the impossible expectations of her mother. No matter what family you grew up in, every teen knows what its like to have expectations on them that they just can’t seem to meet. Samantha is under a lot of expectations and it makes you feel for her, and you want to wrap her up in a hug and give her the affection that she so obviously craves. I definitely loved Jase, mostly because I understood Jase a lot. I’m one of six kids, while Jase is one of eight and his outlooks on life and the way he loves his siblings, but also gets overwhelmed too, felt familiar to me. I also really liked Tim, and his struggle with his own demons and addictions and I can’t wait to see more of him in the sequel. The rest of the characters were all so genuine as well, from the parents (the Garretts, Sam’s mom, Nan’s parents), and the siblings, like Jase’s whole brood, and Sam’s sister, Tracy. No one felt cliche or unfamiliar and that is a huge issue with contemporary YA. All of the characters felt REAL and thats so important.
I also liked the story a lot too, of course. What I really liked the most about this story is that it started off seemingly predictable and then completely switched gears, and went in a direction that I didn’t see coming. I love a good summer romance novel (I mean, come on, Sarah Dessen, anyone?) and I was happy to enjoy a novel with that plot line going on, and the coming-of-age-ness (I’m going to keep using that ‘word’) of Samantha. When the novel’s plot takes a turn, and we end up going through this completely devastating and surprising scene…and the choice Sam has to make because of it…I was definitely surprised. I knew something was going to happen with her and her mom, of course, but what ultimately happens, never did I dream that would be it. I know that’s vague but I don’t want to spoil you guys. This book gives more than you would think. That twist adds for more drama, and gives a new depth to a summer romance novel.
I do wish that part would have slowed down a bit though. It felt like a ton of build up and then the book ended super quickly. Like I said, I thought it was going to be a traditional summer romance story and then that twist happened, but it seemed like an incredibly big twist, too close to the actual end of the novel and things seemed to wrap up really quickly. I think I wanted it to slow down a bit and it didn’t. I wanted maybe to see Sam and her mother struggle more, and maybe more action with Clay (her mother’s sleazy boyfriend), and the struggle of Sam and her choice between her mom and Jase. But I loved the story enough that this didn’t have me hung up.
I think my favorite part of the novel was Jase and his family. His family felt so familiar to me. I am one of six kids. I know the chaos that can occur, and the messes that are made, and the disasters that can happen, but I also understand that there’s a lot of love there. I also understand the kind of questions Mrs. Garrett gets from people about if she’s Catholic, or knows what birth control is and things like that. It fired me up a lot in the novel, because those kinds of things make me angry, especially when they are said to good parents. Mrs. Garrett is obviously an amazing mom, and loves each one of her children and she wants to keep spreading the love. But I also understand Jase…so much. He’s not the eldest child but he has a lot of responsibilities like one and I felt so connected to him. I understood how much responsibility was on his shoulders, and the pressure, as well. He feels the financial burden of his parents more than his siblings do, and even though he’s too young to worry about it, he does anyway (story of my life). He loves his siblings, and couldn’t imagine life without any of them, but he understands how much easier things might have been if his parents had decided to have less kids. It just felt SO familiar to me. Stepping into the Garretts’ house and into Jase’s life felt like walking into my own life.
Bottom line, this is a great novel. Its a perfect summer romance novel, and both Samantha and Jase are characters that you’ll love and that will stick with you. The ending happened a little too fast for me, but the twist at the end, so unexpected in a typical summer romance, that it will also stay with you. The emotions of each characters, their feelings and the ways they grow up, and the way they fall in love are the golden parts of My Life Next Door. Definitely read it.
4 out of 5 stars
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