Series: My Life Next Door #1
Publication Date: June 14, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: Mature Young Adult
Pages: 394 (Hardcover)
Recommended By: Angie
"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, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.
As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.
I am so thankful that several different people forced me to read this book because it is a true gem. I cannot stress how much I loved this book and how much I think everyone should give it a chance. This book sums up young adult entirely. It has everything; it's how it should be written. There's barely anything negative I can say about it.
The first thing worth talking about is our main character, Samantha. She is perfect. She experiences all emotions and truly brings us on an emotional journey. Her self-growth was truly astounding. She has highs and lows and everything in-between, and this is the way a young adult book should be written. No single emotion dominates this book, thus we experience all emotions because we are so connected to the characters thanks to Fitzpatrick's amazing writing style. Jase Garrett, like Samantha, was incredibly easy to connect to as well. I can totally understand why he may be many people's new bookish boyfriend. I really have nothing to say about him because he was written so perfectly. He genuinely cares about Samantha and his family. He cares about protecting those he loves, but he doesn't care what anyone else thinks because he is so happy. Basically, every girl in the world would be happy if we could clone and reproduce Jase Garrett and sell him by the millions. And the best part is that he is insta-love free! Great advertising slogan, no?
The secondary characters in this book deserve a huge round of applause as well, specifically Tim and George. Tim is the older brother of Samantha's best friend, Nan. He is a recovering addict that inadvertantly found his place in the world when the Garrett's entered Samantha's life. Watching his self-growth was just as powerful as watching Samantha's. Then there's George Garrett. He's Jase's four year old little brother. To put it simply, this kid is going to grow up to be a rocket scientist who moonlights as a comedian. He's incredibly intelligent and downright hilarious. He often left me cackling and was a huge source of comic relief in this story alongside Tim and his odd epiphanies. Honestly, I could read an entire book about Tim and a grown-up George because I love them so much and their characters were so incredibly done.
Nan, Samantha's best friend, was mentioned earlier. I have to admit that the way things ended with her left me a little sore. Nan, in my opinion, is slightly selfish, though she genuinely cares about Samantha. She's too focused on going about things the wrong way, and it doesn't end well. Their relationship was really heartbreaking because it was so pure and full of happiness at one point. But, in reality, Samantha is at a time in her life where friends come and go. Not going to lie, it's painful. I can say that from personal experience. So, while I hated how this went down, the relatability was off the charts and I respect Fitzpatrick for putting something so true into her novel.
One of my favorite aspects of this novel was the contrast of the Reed family and the Garrett's. Firstly, every young adult novel should have a family like the Garrett's. They're not only positive, but they're genuine. They love each other and they function as a proper family unit. It was nice to break out of the negative young family mold that is circulating these days. However, that cliche is ever present in Samantha's own broken family. Her mother is a control freak and she is not at all likable. In fact, I legitimately despise her. She puts her image and political career before her family and she treats everything as a bargaining chip. This is only spurred by her new boyfriend and campaign manager, Clay, who I also despise with every fiber of my being--perhaps more than Samantha's mother. Either way, while I understand their inclusion in the story, I wish there was some type of humanity and natural mothering lurking beneath Ms. Reed's surface. You can't manipulate and intimidate people to do everything you want, so I was always rooting for other characters whenever they finally found the courage to stand up to the bullies that Ms. Reed and Clay played.
There's also one twist near the end of the book that made me completely sick to my stomach. It is unfortunately true, bad things happen to good people who do not deserve it, but you'd hope others would dig deep and find their humanity to help out. With that in mind, I have to admit it was brilliant. Not only was it unexpected and unique, it furthered the plot line in understandable ways. It made this contemporary novel stand out, and it was so terrible because we were so connected to the characters. It makes you question humanity, but eventually gives you a little bit of hope. It was shocking, but necessary and perfect. Bravo, Fitzpatrick!
Fitzpatrick's writing style shines through on every page. It's her amazing ability to write that causes this book to be absolutely unputdownable. She has this way of drawing the reader in and holding us captive until the very last word on the very last page. Whether it be connecting us emotionally to her characters or writing a scene where young lovers must go shopping for condoms for the first time, you can't look away. Speaking of which, she totally captured the perfection, awkwardness, and bliss that is young love beautifully, as evident throughout the entire novel and not just the awkwardly adorable and hilarious condom scene.
I have nothing else to say. If this review has not convinced you to read this book, then I don't know what will. You must be a robot incapable of emotion and love.
Just a content warning...I would recommend this to mature young adult readers. There is swearing, sexual situations, mentions of drug usage, manipulation, and violence. It is very controlled and done respectfully, but it is existent in this book.
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