Obviously, My Life Next Door comes highly recommended by book bloggers. I’m pretty sure at least five have mentioned that I needed to get to this novel. And, having read it, I’m happy to say you were all right and that this is definitely a Christina book. I loved the Garretts, the incredibly sweet portrayal of first love, and the development of the secondary characters.
My Life Next Door starts out as a very light, fluffy tale. Samantha, youngest daughter of a wealthy woman, spends the summer getting to know cute neighbor boy, Jase. Though her mom, Grace, raised Samantha and Tracy alone, that only really became a problem when Grace entered politics. Now the Connecticut Senator, she’s running for reelection, neglecting her daughters, and becoming a person that Samantha hardly recognizes.
Grace attempted to instill a lot of her own prejudices in Samantha, including her hatred of the rambunctious, child-filled, messy family next door. Samantha, however, finds the Garretts fascinating, and has been watching them almost all of her life. Even so, she had no idea just how wonderful they were until Jase gets up the courage to talk to her and invite her into their lives.
The Garretts are truly amazing, probably the most healthy family in YA fiction I’ve ever encountered. You wouldn’t expect me to love a family with eight children, but they’re marvelous and I kind of want to be friends with them. From the parents, who, eight children in, are still totally hot for one another, down to the youngest Garrett, baby Patsy, whose first words are “boob” and “poop”, the Garretts are a charming bunch. The whole family bursts with vibrancy and life, especially compared with the cleansed, cold, emptiness of Samantha’s house. In this instance, it really is easy to believe that, though the Garretts want for money, they’re wealthy in what truly matters.
And Jase, oh Jase. He’s a WONDERFUL fictional boyfriend. Jase is physically attractive, yes, but that’s not the reason he’s so swoony, and Fitzpatrick really doesn’t harp on his looks either. What makes Jase such a great guy is how thoughtful and kind he is. He adores Samantha and she him. They truly bond, laughing together and growing together. No scene about going to buy condoms has ever been so cute or so incredibly healthy in its attitude towards sex, I swear. Both the emotional and physical sides of their relationship are done so perfectly.
Another aspect I ended up loving was Tim’s character arc. At first, I hated him, as one is meant to. Tim’s a druggie, lost in a haze and squandering all the opportunity provided by his parents’ wealth. However, he actually cleans up, even though it’s hard, and he becomes a really good, reliable friend to Samantha and Jase when they’re in need of that sort of support. And, in being so helpful to them, Tim has the motivation to stay off of drugs and alcohol. His arc’s probably a bit over-simplified, but I loved the tale of redemption.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I’m less sure how I feel about the twist for the very serious that the novel took at the end. While I think Fitzpatrick handled the subject matter well, it’s a serious mood change, and I wasn’t really prepared for the book to head in that direction, which made it a bit disappointing. Also, I came out of it less of a fan of Samantha, View Spoiler », and made me feel like Jase deserved better. Then again, Samantha’s so young, and that would be a really hard choice for her to make.
There was one thing I definitively did not like about My Life Next Door. Both Nan and Samantha use “mommy” to refer to their mothers, which really seems out of place in a seventeen-year-old. Yes, they’re spoiled trust fund girls, but they do work to earn their own money and have ambition. Sure, when I was a teen, I would make use of “mommy” and “daddy” to get my way sometimes, but I certainly wouldn’t be calling them that in casual conversation with friends or for no reason whatsoever.
The Final Verdict:
Even though I’m a bit uncertain about a couple of directions My Life Next Door took, I loved this honest portrayal of first love and its heartfelt look at family and politics. I’m definitely rating up for the adorable feels I got from the romance in this one.