I’ve just finished the last page of My Lie Next Door and I kind of want to cry from the beauty of it. Admittedly, I’ve been pretty emotional lately, but still. And the thing is, its beauty doesn’t lie in wordy descriptions or extravagantly depicted worlds, but the simple raw realness of it all. Which, sometimes, is the most beautiful thing of all.
Boy does Ms. Fitzpatrick know how to toy with my emotions. I felt the full range. I’m talking about everything from that lovely happy, floaty feeling to sorrow and disgust. And they aren’t the kind of feelings you just think about either, they’re the kind that smack you right in the chest a MAKE you feel them.
Oh, Garrett family, how I love you so. Despite the fact that the kids were loud, messy, and all over the place, I just wanted to visit them and become a part of their family as Samantha did. You might think it’d be impossible to become familiar enough with 10 different characters to love them all, but Fitzpatrick managed to make me care about each and every Garrett. I loved that Patsy’s first word was “boob” and that George spouts facts like an adorable encyclopedia without pants. I love that Alice is fiercely protective of Jase and that Mrs. Garrett has seemingly eternal patience. I could probably go on all day, but seeing as this isn’t an ode to the Garrett family, I probably shouldn’t.
Sam and Jase’s relationship is just so perfect in its realness. It’s lovely and shiny and heart-warming, yes, but it’s also awkward and has its rough moments. I actually laughed out loud several times including the uncomfortable “mutual pleasure” conversation and the awkward condom shopping scene which included the best excuse I’ve ever heard for condom possession: “supplies for a really expensive water balloon fight.”
I love Samantha’s slow descent from the “perfect daughter” to someone who has her own thoughts, opinions, and priorities. It was almost like Fitzpatrick stole a page from my life seeing as I did almost the exact same thing when I first started dating my husband. It wasn’t like she was trying to be some rebellious wild child. The magic of first love simply allowed her to feel the way she always secretly had.
And Tim? Oh, he was such a wild card. I thought he’d just be one of those background throwaway characters, but he so wasn’t. He actually turned out to be my favorite character of all. Yes, even over Jase. I mean, come on, the guy sits there and wipes Sam’s snotty nose when she breaks down in front of him. He’s basically the best friend on the entire planet.
The Nutshell: I could honestly go on and on about My Life Next Door all day but how about we all just do ourselves a favor and go read the book instead?
This may very well be the review where I gush until my mouth and fingers just fall off. I absolutely adored this book, and it’s going on my often unattainable 5-star shelf.
Exactly like the description states, this is an incredible story about “family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person without betraying another.” From the outside looking in, the Reeds have the cookie-cutter family minus the father figure, living a relatively privileged life in a large, tidy home with wealth, country club dinners, and endless opportunities. Grace, the mom, is a politician working countless hours on her campaign to become the state senator of Connecticut as well as striving to be a “good” single mother (read: but actually is suffocating her children with college-driven activities). Tracey, the eldest child, is sort of the rebel of the family, always trying to break away from the mold that her mom tries so desperately to force her into at every turn. That leaves our main character, Samantha, later dubbed Sam, who is a seventeen-year-old girl that lets her perfectionist mother dictate her summer and fill it with extra-curricular jobs all for the sake of playing the good daughter. Secretly though, for over ten years now and unbeknownst to her mom, Sam climbs atop her balcony every night to watch her next door neighbors, trying to imagine what it would be like to be one of them.
Them being the Garretts, a family that’s everything the Reeds are not and completely off limits according to Sam’s mother. They’re a rambunctious group with two loving parents and eight kids. Much to Grace’s dismay, they’re loud, their yard is always messy, and they practically “lower real estate values” just by existing. As to be expected with such a large family, they also have financial struggles, but they’re “rich in all the things that matter.”
Everything changes one night for Sam while she spies on the Garrets in their back yard, though, because Jase climbs up her trellis and onto her roof, hunkering down into Sam’s secret hiding spot and changing her life forever.
“Hey,” he says again, sitting down next to me as though he knows me so well. “Need rescuing?”
So honestly, my love of this book knows no bounds… in case you missed that by the shelf rating. If I could track Huntley Fitzpatrick down (In a non-stalkerish way, I’m not a creeper. Honest.), I’d probably tackle-hug her, smother her with fangirl snuggles, and probably spend days on end singing her praises. Yes, this book is that great!
Back a few months ago, I saw this title on Net Galley and I instantly knew that I had to have it and that I would love it. That cover, which pictures don’t do justice, is so pretty! It alone gave me the warm and fuzzies. Unfortunately, I was turned down for viewing at that time, so I kept a watchful eye on it (read: stalked it continuously), and waited patiently for my copy to come in the mail after publication. Then began all the reviews on Goodreads and everyone and their blog buddies were spreading their absolute love of this book, and after reading, it’s not hard to see why.
First off, the complexity of the story and its characters is so deep. Woven throughout this novel is a dozen subplots that include but aren't limited to Grace’s struggles as a single parent, the financial burdens and judgement that comes with having a larger family, the darker side to political work, addiction, sexuality (which the Fitzpatrick handles positively as well as responsibly) and several types of betrayal. It seems like it would be overwhelming, but the author handled each issue with a degree of finesse that speaks volumes about her work and the story-line never grew muddled. Each conflict felt personal to its character and was approached with the level of tenderness and edge it required, making it easier to connect and identify with each of their stories.
Often times, books and characters are described as “sucks you right in” or “leaps off the page,” but to say that about this novel would seem like an understatement it in my eyes. These characters were four-dimensional, doing more than leaping off the page. I saw and heard their interactions, felt very much a part of their lives, and I loved every minute of it. I also enjoyed that each character had quirks about them, that no one was perfect, and that made them so much more real for me. More identifiable.
Despite loving and being fascinated by all the characters (even the bad, sucky ones that made me want to punch things), I’d have to say that Jase and his four-year-old brother, George, were my favorites by far. Jase, *girly sigh*, brought the swoons by the bucketloads. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a male character that managed to maintain an authentic boy vibe while still making me get butterflies, heartflutters, and smile like an idiot quite like he did. He had me boiling hot and heart-melting through this whole book.
He looks up at my face, his eyes drowsy and dazzled. “I know. I know. I want too. But not like this. Not with no time. Not with nothing—” He swallows. “Not like this. But Jesus, Samantha. Look at you.”
And the way he does look at me makes me feel absolutely beautiful.
“I can’t look away,” he whispers huskily. “But I have to go.” Taking a deep breath, he buttons my nightgown back up, then presses a kiss to my throat.
He pulls my lower lip gently with his teeth, then fits his mouth to mine. First so careful, and then so deep and deliberate, that I can’t think of anything at all but his smooth back under my hands.
Come on now! I mean, Jeez Louise. And I’ll just stop there before I end up quoting the entire book. Let it be known that I called myself “limiting” my updates on Goodreads and still ended up with fifteen, that’s not even counting all the jabbering I did on twitter. (I also giggled like mad and re-swooned while looking back over all these.)
Then George has to be the most adorable toddler boy on the planet. I instantly loved him and now I’m secretly trying to find a boy exactly like him so that I can adopt. He steals every single scene he’s in and I could just eat him up. #TeamGeorge
“Did you know that in space it’s very, very cold? And there’s no oxygen? And if an astronaut fell out of a shuttle without his suit he’d die right away?”
I’m a fast learner. “But that would never happen. Because astronauts are really, really careful.”
George gives me a smile, the same dazzling sweet smile as his big brother, although at this point, with green teeth. “I might marry you,” he allows. “Do you want a big family?”
I start coughing again. “Uh, No. No, George. I’m only seventeen.” As if that’s the only reason we’re not engaged.
“I’m this many.” George holds up four, slightly grubby fingers. “But Jase is seventeen and a half. You could. Then you could live in here with him. And have a big family.”
Jase strides back into the room, of course, midway through this proposition. “George. Beat it. Discovery Channel is on.”
George backs out of the room but not before saying, “His bed’s really comfortable. And he never pees in it.”
Cutest kidlet ever, right? But there’s so much more to this book than its characters, even though I’ve honestly never read a book where I loved every single character (even the ones you love to hate) more than I did with this one.
My biggest complaint with this book is the “incident” which is the major conflict of the story. In the spirit of keeping this review mostly spoiler-free, I’ll only say that I wished that there had been bigger consequences for all the guilty parties and that everything appeared to have been swept in a too nice and tidy pile of dirt under the rug for my taste. I would have liked to have seen some real repercussions. But then, when I truly sat and thought about it, I remembered that although the characters in the story didn’t necessarily handle the situation the way in which I thought was appropriate, that maybe it was handled in the way that those particular characters would’ve taken care of it.
Verdict: Why are you even still here reading this review? Shouldn’t you have already left to go to the bookstore or clicked over to your favorite store online? Go buy this book, go borrow it from the library, go snatch it out of your neighbor’s hand because this is one you don’t want to miss out on. Then come find me- here, twitter, Goodreads, my home, wherever- so we can squee and flail together! Promise?
Huntley Fitzpatrick is a genius and I’ll be reading everything she writes. (Please say that you’re working on a sequel or companion book for this! Pretty please?!) This book isn’t on my top shelf, it’s been bumped up to nightstand status. I’ll need it handy for those late-night swoon withdrawals.
Mostly realistic portrayal of real life, real families, real first love, and all that other stuff that falls in-between.
Why I Loved It: It breaks my heart that I didn't read this first when I was approved for a NetGalley copy. Life got busy and so on, sob story, and moving on. There was a review of it a couple weeks ago that I saw, full of raving compliments which then led me to Goodreads, also full of raving reviews. I knew then that it was time to read this book. And so it began.
First off, the book meets all the hype head on with confident swagger. *Yes, that is possible* I mean the book just oozes confidence. It's good and it knows it. There is nothing more attractive than confidence. *Hence my unhealthy attraction to fictional bad-boy characters*
Sam, daughter of a wealthy state senator, meets the not-so-typical boy next door that lacks some of that wealth. They come from completely different backgrounds, her's from a life with a huge void and his from a home full of love and life. She is one of two children *many times feeling like the only one* and he is one of eight. EIGHT! Now I know a family of seven going on eight kids, so I can say that the author got the family dynamics completely right, though the family I know is a lot more conservative. So minus the crazy hair dye, motorcycle, and the lack of girls in the room restrictions, I have seen this type of family in action. The reality of the family is definitely helped by the fact that the author has six children. That sounds so fun.
My favorite part of the book wasn't the love story. It was Sam's interaction with Jace's family. In all honesty, it was the huge sense of family all throughout the book that drew me in. It's amazing how the absence of that type of love and devotion we only get from our families was filled in a small way by each member of Jace's family in Sam's heart.
Now my issue, which I am prepared to receive all kinds of criticism and eye rolls for, is that I did not like how fast Jace and Sam's relationship went. Call me old-fashioned, because I am, but buying condoms with a boy she only knew for about a month is a little crazy. I know it's a book, but gah that seems fast for someone as level-headed as Jace was. Anyways, it bugged me. Otherwise I loved Jace. He was thoughtful, loved fixing things, and he had the heart that Sam needed. My other tiny concern was that I wished for more resolution. What happens with Jace and college, Jace's dad, and Sam with the swim team?
I loved how the characters were totally turned around at times. It was interesting to see which one of the twins ended up being there for Sam. The author will make you love, hate, and laugh. For a moment, you will long for a big family.
For me, My Life Next Door has been one of those novels you see floating around, universally liked, not unreasonably hyped, but…for some reason or another, a book that never gets picked up. Huntley Fitzpatrick’s debut always seemed like something I’d like, but I kept putting it off. My current summer reading project gave me the impetus I needed to finally crack the cover.
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.
So, let me explain this low rating of this book.
First off, I feel really guilty for skipping most of this book and not even finishing the last 100 pages take or give. This is my not very excuseable reason:
It's a hot summer day when all I am doing is lazing around the air conditioned house. Did I mention that I was also really bored? So, I started searching for some books to read and I happen to come across this book in my hunting. I read the description. I thought it sounded mildly interesting and it had high ratings. I guess in the first place, I never really did have high hopes for the book because it's not really my type of book. Mainly I'm used to fast-paced adventurous books or fantasy books with a twist to it. Even a mystery book thrown in for good measure. I usually never read just a plain-old romance book like this one. So, I told myself it's time for a change and got it on my e-reader. I started reading it and I was thinking to myself it wasn't half-bad but just well.....boring. I have mentioned above that I'm used to fast-paced, exciting, and an adrenaline rush in books. This is my reason for thinking the book was boring! Probably compared to a romance-book lover it would be considered a very interesting and non-boring book but to me it was. I did like her descriptions and the plot of the story itself was quite good. I probably would have even liked it if I finished with. I may even finish it. A very tinsy possiblitiy. And it will be when I have absolutely nothing to read. Also I will probably be going to extremes if I have nothing else to read since my to-read shelf is.....let's just say alot.
Everything about My Life Next Door screams “summer chick-flick”! From its flirty cover, to its sappy title, to its shockingly bright synopsis, you’d think you couldn’t go wrong with this book. I was expected a Sarah Dessen type novel and what I got instead is something I can only relate to authors who I happen to loathe like Stephanie Meyer or Becca Fitzpatrick, even though they’re not contemporary authors. I think what pains me the most is that I really liked the first half of this novel. It was slow, it was a little too happy, but it was nice. It had potential. Ultimately though, it just didn’t live up.
Samantha Reed seems to have everything – the perfect grade point average, a beautiful home, a rich and successful mother, a perfect figure, and gorgeous genes. Yet, what no one else seems to see is that her mother is hardly a mother – she vacuums obsessively and has been aloof, strict, and apart ever since Sam’s father abandoned their family before she was even born. Thus, Sam cannot help but gaze wistfully at her neighbors, the Garretts, who have eight children, seem to be broke, and yet have all the happiness in the world. When Jase, the third eldest Garrett child, introduces himself to Samantha, her dream of becoming part of their life comes true. Samantha couldn’t be happier – until that is, her senator mother makes a grave mistake that could destroy her newfound happiness and love.
I’m not going to lie – I was quite impressed by this story at first. Samantha was an interesting protagonist, one who was suffering underneath her perfect disguise, yet she never let that get in the way of her interactions with others. She constantly tried to be the perfect daughter, the perfect neighbor, the perfect best friend, the perfect girlfriend, and I think that is something everyone can relate to. Yet, Samantha paled in comparison to the Garretts. In some ways, this novel reminded me of Cheaper by the Dozen – two loving parents with a large family of children do their best to make it work. Furthermore, these kids, despite their vastly different personalities, all love one another and seem to mesh perfectly as siblings. Seeing Samantha fit into this equation was nothing short of entertaining and only increased my respect for her.
In addition to the Garretts though, another family that played a huge part in this novel was Sam’s best friend Nan and her brother Tim. Sam has grown up with these two since childhood and I loved how realistically their relationships were portrayed – well, in the first half of the novel. Usually, authors never give too much emphasis to the best friend, but Nan was given a lot of importance in this story, which I liked – especially because a friend’s problems, their life, and their struggles impact your life as well. Furthermore, Tim, Nan’s older brother, undergoes immense growth and change throughout this novel as well as being one hell of an intelligent, sassy, and funny guy – all qualities which instantaneously made him my favorite character. Although I loved Jase, the main love interest, Tim was simply so much more. Jase is kind, polite, and perfect to the point where he has no flaws. He is an attentive boyfriend, a doting son, an inspirting brother, and an adoring child in general. Sam’s relationship with Jase was cute, fun, and likeable. They had their awkward moments, their gradual growth, and their eventual path to love. I liked all of these things, but somewhere after the half-way point of this book, everything began to go downhill.
First and foremost, one of the main issues that can be seen even from the beginning of the novel is the fact that Sam’s mother hates Jase’s family. She thinks they’re too big and she despises that since her own unreliable husband came from a family just like theirs. So of course, when Sam becomes involved with Jase her mother doesn’t know about it and surprisingly enough neither does Sam’s best friend. Logically speaking, this should have been a big problem in the story. Jase should have been very upset by this, he should have seriously questioned Sam’s feelings for him, but he didn’t, because you know, Jase is just such a sweet and forgiving guy. Is this realistic? No, not even close. Strike #1
Although Problem #1 bothered me, I was able to let it go and trudge onwards with the story to Problem #2. This is a friendship problem with Nan – one which, in my opinion, was original, different, and really interesting. I wanted to see how this played out! I was curious, I was excited – uniqueness in YA Contemporary Fiction? It was unheard of! Yet, what winds up happening in this situation is that Nan refuses to speak to Sam and even after Sam finally gets the backbone and guts to force Nan to speak to her, they have a short conversation and end their friendship of twelve years just like that. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t walk away from my best friend of twelve years that easily. I let it go though, I kept thinking it would come up later, that it would be resolved eventually. Spoiler Alert: That eventual closure we’re waiting for? It doesn’t happen. Sam doesn’t even get to say her perspective of the issue in fact! She just listens to Nan, nods, walks away, and Nan is never mentioned ever again. Irritating? Yes. Unrealistic? Yes. Strike #2? Yes.
If you haven’t already figured out so far, Samantha has some serious issues – not only in her life, but with her personality as well. Most importantly, she has no backbone. A Gryffindor she most certainly is not. She lacks the courage to tell her mom about her perfect boyfriend, she lacks the courage to salvage her friendship with Nan, but the last straw comes when she lacks the courage to do what is right. This is a spoiler-free review (for the most part), so all I can really say is that her mother does something bad – really bad – and it affects the Garretts, who are poor and struggling to make ends meet, in a really bad way. Samantha knows that her mother is responsible for this act that is causing the Garretts to suffer, but no one else knows about it, so what should she do? Well, first of all, she should tell her boyfriend. What she does do instead though, is tell herself that what she thinks isn’t true – denial. I’m not heartless, so I can accept denial, but not for eight days (or a week…something like that)! Plus, even after that eight days, when she finally accepts it’s true, she still doesn’t tell Jase! This entire situation plays out in such a ridiculous manner that it is not even funny. Sam’s mother is Senator Reed, running for re-election, so the truth can’t com out because of her campaign, but you know what? I don’t care. Everyone is raised with a moral sense of right from wrong and the decisions Sam and her mother make are wrong, irritating, and disappointing. Of course this situation all solves itself up very nicely, but I hated its entire presence in the novel. Not only does it take up the entire second half of the novel, it ruins it. Strike #3
Avid baseball fans (or not-baseball-fans like me) will know that after three strikes, you are out and boy, was this book out – out of my shelf, out of my life, out. What upsets me the most though, is that this book had a lot of potential. It had unique and original ideas, but its execution of them was disappointing and lacking. I think the author’s intention was for this novel to be an expose about how a girl who seems to have everything together really doesn’t. How she makes mistakes, loses friends and her life falls apart. Well, Sam’s life did fall apart, but that was because of stupid mistakes, idiotic decisions, and loss of a brain for eight days. I suppose some may argue that that is life, it is realistic, but if you read this book you’ll know that these situations and the way they were handled were not realistic. Furthermore, Sam’s sister was only in this novel for 2% of it which was a huge mistake. I kept thinking of how things would have been different if Sam’s sister was there and I think it would have been a stronger novel if her relationship with her sister was allowed to develop.
Gosh, that brings me to another problem! There was no development of relationships in this novel except between Sam and the Garretts and Tim with…well everyone because he’s just awesome like that. Even by the end of the novel, Sam’s mother felt like the same Crappy Mom of the Decade since she was being a selfish pig. Furthermore, I haven’t even mention Supreme Villain of All Time, Clay. Clay is a douche bag, an idiot, a guy with the wrong priorities and he also happens to be Senator Reed’s boyfriend. *cue gag* I don’t want to talk about him, I hate him, and all you need to know is that he sucks.
My Life Next Door is a novel with a lot of potential, a lot of hope, and a lot of disappointment. The first half of this book is sweet, caring, and fun but then it just becomes strike after strike after strike. After reading it, I can’t even say that I liked it. If anything, I feel as if I wasted a huge chunk of my time. Looking back, I don’t even feel that invested in Sam and Jase’s relationship since Jase was so perfect and Sam was so unworthy of him and any problems they had weren’t even dealt with in a realistic and proper manner. *sigh* I’m sorry to say that My Life Next Door goes right back on my shelf of disappointing debuts. Fitzpatrick had some great ideas in this one, but everything just fell flat in the end. Perhaps a more experienced author would have been better suited to write such a complex novel, but Fitzpatrick was simply unable to handle the plethora of scenarios in this one. That being said…I. Am. Out.
You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings