Published by Penguin on June 14th 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Love & Romance, Family, General, Social Issues, Dating & Sex
Also by this author: The Boy Most Likely To
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.
This book cover just screams summer, doesn’t it? My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick arrived just when I was in the mood to do a little escapist reading, and the more I read about it the more I couldn’t wait to start reading. This coming of age is appealing with the forbidden love and opposites attract aspects, though there are also some deeper issues to explore in this debut novel. I found myself on a recent warm spring day devouring this book and falling in love with the family next door, just like Samantha.
Samantha Reed lives in a coastal New England town with her mom Grace, who is a State Senator, and her older sister, Tracy. It’s always been just the three of them, and they have managed very well on their own. When the oversized Garrett family moves in next-door, five lively kids and counting – Grace Reed just knows that their family won’t keep house to her pristine standards, certain their cluttered ways will bring down the neighborhood. Grace has made it clear that Samantha is not to socialize with “those Garrett’s.” But Samantha can’t keep from watching the Garrett family on the sly, wondering what it would be like to be on the other side of the fence. One day, Jase Garrett spots Samantha spying and climbs up the trellis to say hello, opening the door to a summer of moonlight swims, stargazing, and family time with the Garrett’s.
I clicked with this book right away, swept up with the family drama and summer romance. Coming from a small family I was also curious about how it would be to live in a large family. There is a stark contrast between the austere Reed home and the chaotic yet tons of fun Garrett household. Sam is on her own during the summer while her mom is out campaigning with the creepy new man in her life, politically and romantically. And her sister is out of town for the summer too, paving the way for Sam to spend lots of time with Jase and his family.
The Garrett’s are bubbly and alive and a welcome breath of fresh air to Samantha. There are eight (!) Garrett kids in all but it was surprisingly not confusing to keep track of them all. Jase is the third oldest, and Samantha bonds right away with one of the younger boys George. All of the kids sparkle with personality, and life at the Garrett’s makes life at the Reed’s look dreary in comparison. Coming from such a different household it was interesting to see how well Samantha fit in with the Garrett’s even taking a turn at babysitting.
Besides the Garrett family, the blossoming romance between Jase and Samantha takes center stage. You will fall in love with Jase, and I predict he will be your new favorite book boyfriend. He really is too good to be true and the novel stands on it’s own just based on their romance, despite any other stumbling blocks. He loves animals, dreams big, he’s great with kids, and can fix anything. They are a root worthy couple and Fitzpatrick hits all the right notes developing their relationship.
Samantha is hard working and intelligent – she has two summer jobs, including one waitress job with a funnily inappropriate sailor uniform. She faces some moral dilemmas in this book that take the story beyond just a summer romance, and especially with her mother’s political career on the line. There are friendship issues that arise with her friend Nan and her brother Tim- not my favorite story direction in the book, but Tim’s story is interesting as it develops.
While much of the book is smooth sailing and a fun relaxed romance, I waited for the inevitable other shoe to drop, which it does. I kind of wish Fitzpatrick didn’t have to create the situation she did, though I understand you have to have some kind of conflict in the book. In this case though, the conflict tarnished the book for me and seemed a little too manufactured. It does make for some interesting discussion, though I wish there was another way.
I found My Life Next Door very memorable and a worthy summer read. Though the story could use a little tightening up and the conflict wasn’t my favorite, I still found a lot to enjoy about the book. The story has stayed with me and I’m sure I’ll reread it at some point. This contemporary romance has depth and layers to explore and is perfect for a day at the beach.