Samantha has spent most of her life peeking in on the Garretts, who live next door. Their house looks kind of trashy, and every few years, Mrs. Garrett has another baby—she’s up to eight kids at the start of the book. Samantha’s mother, a wealthy blueblood politician, looks down on the Garretts, but when Samantha meets Jase Garrett and is sucked into the world of Next Door, she thinks maybe her mother is wrong.
The first thing that stands out with this book is how realistic it is, especially in terms of first love and sex—especially sex. I’m going to be completely honest and say I have never read a book that dealt with teen sex so well. Ever. (Spoiler alert: Samantha and Jase have sex, in case you hadn’t gathered that.) The two romantic interests discuss having sex beforehand, Samantha mulls it over in her head and is understandably nervous, they buy condoms together beforehand, and when they do have sex after (having discussed it and thought it over for a while), it’s awkward and messy and not, you know, butterflies and rainbows, etc. I was unbelievably impressed with that aspect of My Life Next Door. Actually, I think it was the best part; young adult fiction needs more portrayals of sexuality like this one. Bravo, Ms Fitzpatrick. Bravo!
Aside from that, I think that overall, this book is just good. The story and characters are really likable, and it’s funny. There was one scene in particular that made me cackle (yes, cackle) for a good five minutes. And even though the main focus of the book is on Samantha and Jase’s romance, that’s not all. I loved the themes of friendship, family—especially family. My Life Next Door is mostly a light read, but Fitzpatrick didn’t shy away from the tough issues when they come up.
As characters, I enjoyed Samantha and Jase a lot. They were both well-rounded people who made sense together, whose actions and reactions seemed plausible in given situations. The definite highlight for me was Jase’s seven siblings, because they were adorable and realistic and definitely felt like a real family to me. Samantha’s best friend Nan, and especially Nan’s older brother Tim, played a big role as well, and I liked watching the shifting dynamic between Samantha and her friends.
Overall, My Life Next Door is a really good book. It’s a romance with something on the side, which worked well for me. Fitzpatrick’s portrayal of romance (no instalove) and sex (omg, amazing!) would have won me over even if the rest of the book sucked. The fact that the rest of the book was actually rather awesome made it all better.