My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
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“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?
From the outside, Samantha Reed has everything. Good grades, perfect house, loving family with her wholesome, politician mother, and she's going places - wherever she wants. As long as it's where her mother wants, at least. That's the real secret - her mom is the one in control, and Samantha's never been one to rock the boat. In fact, the only thing she's ever really done outside of her mother's perfect image is take an interest in her neighbors. For years she watches the Garretts and their chaos from the roof of her perfect house and can't help but wish to trade places. Until one day one of them climbs up to her hiding spot and gives her the chance.
Samantha's story is one every former teenage girl can relate to: she's struggling to find her place in the world and where she should be heading, with the added bonus of a severely overbearing mother with very different values. Her escape is looking at the life of the family next door and imagining what it would be like to have that - unconditional love, acceptance of imperfections. It's something we've all wanted at one time in our lives, and it makes relating to and liking her happen quickly and seamlessly. She doesn't complain about what she doesn't have but knows she wants more. It makes her seem real and her age without being unnecessarily obnoxious. In fact, she may be just the kind of friend you wanted at that age. Perhaps even still want.
And then there's Jase. He's the kind of boy we all wish we had. The one that's almost too good to be true in every way. He's sweet, caring, cute, takes care of his family, loves animals, and is basically perfect. There is no way for me to describe him without completely gushing, because if I could create the ultimate boy, he would pretty much be mine. He's gorgeous and good and so much better than any teenage boy I've ever met. They really don't make 'em like that.
Their relationship is exactly what love, young and beyond, should be like. It will make you smile, swoon, and ache, sometimes all at the same time. It's by far one of my favorite relationship dynamics because they just fit. Sure, there's drama, but the two of them together work so well it's incredible and so beautiful.
With that said, the trials they have to go through are painful, more so than I ever would've guessed. The only thing I wish had been done differently is I felt there were still quite a lot of questions left unanswered. That's not to say there's a cliffhanger or anything that evil, but the future of the families is still rather unclear, and I'm not someone who likes filling in the blanks themselves.
All in all, My Life Next Door is one of my new favorites. It's a beautifully enthralling coming-of-age story that reminds us of the time we had to start choosing our own way and making our own family, and that, sometimes, the choice we think is obvious really isn't right. I have a feeling Sam and, of course, Jase, will be sticking with me for a long time to come.
I was lucky enough to be born to parents who read every kind of written material with interest and enthusiasm, and let me do the same. From the start I searched for books that let me fall in love...with the story and with the boy. For most of my childhood I divided my devotion between Almanzo Wilder from The Little House books, C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian and Tom in Louisa May Alcott's An Old Fashioned Girl.
I figured out early that stories were what made sense of the world when it was confusing and made the best moments permanent. I was shy and nearsighted but good at anything that involved reading and imagining, so quickly decided the only logical career to pursue was writing. To this end my father gave me a typewriter (it was a long time ago), a package of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a bottle of Scotch and a note advising me to "Be Bold, Be Bold, Be Bold." For my tenth birthday.
I passed on the scotch and the smokes, but kept writing. My first completed story involved a family with twenty children who lived by the ocean. The parents were twenty-two. Some things have never changed for me: my love of family, beaches, and my shaky grasp of math.