Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publication Date: June 14th, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 Stars
A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying anotherWow. Okay. I need a while to digest this book. I actually had to take some breaks from it because of how intense it got.
“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 expected something way different than what I got. I expected a cute, flirty summer romance with one of those shallow forbidden high school loves. I got that, and more.
From the start, My Life Next Door sucked me in. Something about the protagonist, Samantha, and her sterile life that was so close to crumbling, really got me. She's quirky and different, and her genuine care for the people around her is clearly visible. She definitely doesn't spend time feeling sorry for herself.
Then she meets the Garretts, and everything gets crazy. My favorite Garrett was George and his cute, naive questions. But I liked all of them. They made me laugh. They act exactly the way a loud, boisterous family with so many people would, and they made me want to join them. My family's not all that big, and I always wonder what it'd be like to have so many people always around like the Garretts. Especially contrasted with the silent elegance of Samantha's home, the wonderful disorder of the Garrett house is even more attractive. I think Fitzpatrick's description was especially good in this aspect. Her juxtaposition of these two homes next to each other yet so utterly separate is admirable, especially because it enhances the different facets of each.
Jase is perfect. Jase is actually too perfect to be true. He fixes cars, fixes vacuum cleaners, fixes houses. He's a fixer, and it's interesting to see his own insecurities brought to light, his own desire to do something about his future and not just be the boy from the "wrong side of the tracks." I would've liked to know more about what would happen to him afterwards, but we can't get everything. His relationship with Samantha is stuttered by pain and awkwardness, but I definitely don't think the love in this book is forced. It happens seamlessly, and I wasn't at all surprised when they confessed to loving each other. However, what does surprise me is how easily Jase accepted that Samantha's mother had a problem with him, as well as how easily her mother deals with their relationship. By all the emphasis placed on the Garretts and how they were not to be associated with, I thought Samantha's mom's discovery would be a huge blowup of mega proportions.
Then there's Clay. Clay made me want to punch something. But there's something to be admired in his smooth, Southerner speak, and his total lack of any morals whatsoever. I was pretty deceived too, knowing there was something wrong with him but not able to pinpoint exactly what that problem was. The same with Nan, who I cannot tolerate either, though in a different way. I wish she could've gotten her just desserts in the end, but that's how life works, and I think Fitzpatrick was trying to tell us through her ending that life happens sometimes, and some people get lost in the shuffle.
After all my talking about characters, it's reasonable to assume that the part I liked most about this book was the characterization. Sure, there were inconsistencies, but the people are real. So real that it hurts. I cared about their lives, and I wanted to know what happened. When the plot started taking a turn for the dramatic and serious, I followed along because I cared. Otherwise, I would've just rolled my eyes the entire time.
I really did enjoy this book, especially the Garretts. Although, I wouldn't say it's a fun summer read, or even dreamy, like that deceitful blurb says. You read this book, and you remember what you learn from it.
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