Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Release Date: 14 June 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult (YA)
Source: Borrowed from the Public Library
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"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.
As an unashamed introvert, I really related to this book. Why? Because I could relate to Sam in several ways: not shy, but not in your face, a people watcher, someone who stops and waits to see what will happen before diving in. Sam has been watching the Garrett family for years, wishing for the warmth and closeness she sees across the fence. In comparison with the rather cold, stoic mother and the boy-crazy, shallow sister, the Garrett family sparkles with love and just plain adventure. Sam’s mom is a major CRAPPY PERSON. She’s so ridiculously selfish, and mentions several times how she didn’t want to have babies or that she didn’t see herself as a mom. Um … gee. Way to make your kids feel loved. “I didn’t really want you and it’s selfish of you to ask me to be at home and be your mother even though I’m your only parent.” *slaps the mom* I’m surprised that her children have turned out to be relatively well-adjusted. Thankfully, Huntley Fitzpatrick gives us Mrs. Garrett, who is awesome.
I hand Patsy a bottle of juice, prompting a crunchy-granola-looking woman in Birkenstocks to say, “That baby is much too old for a bottle. She should be on a sippy cup by now.”
Who are these people, and why do they think their own opinions are the only right ones?
“Don’t you ever just want to kill them, or at least swear at them?” I ask in an undertone, steering the cart away from the crabby sippy-cup woman, with Harry and George clinging to either side like spider monkeys.
“Of course.” Mrs. Garrett shrugs. “But what kind of example would that be?” (Page 107)
Then one night Jase climbs up the side of their house and Sam finds herself talking to him about her feelings. Why did he climb up to talk to her after years of living silently on the other side of the fence? We don’t know. But it’s downright adorable and I’ll allow it. One thing: Jase – why do you love all these gross animals? I want to be swoony over you but you have reptiles living in your room. Sam and Jase’s relationship doesn’t move quickly, necessarily, and I was more willing to accept the pace of it because they’d lived next door to each other for so long, so naturally some of the basics were already covered. They were able to move into the feelings and details stages more quickly, and trust was established almost instantly. Sam hides her relationship with Jase for a while and I was concerned that she was ashamed of him. She got over that after a while, mostly because she began realizing that her mom’s snobby opinion of this beautiful family shouldn’t prohibit her from being with someone awesome like Jase.
My only complaint is that Jase was too perfect. He didn’t get angry, he was respectful in his attraction to Sam (which was AMAZING, not a complaint but just another tally in the perfect list) he forgave Sam pretty easily for something I would’ve expected more trouble for, and he was just very … ideal. I LOVE him, of course, but I wish he’d been more flawed and realistic.
Much has said about the relationship in this book, and it’s so sweet. Like other reviewers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how very healthy their relationship was. Jase asked before making a move, they waited until they were ready, and they talked about safe sex. They both made sure their partner felt safe. *claps for Huntley FItzpatrick* These are the kind of relationships I’d love to see more of: where the virginal MCs are careful, and they don’t rush into sex knowing exactly what to do, already prepared because the author’s outline said so.
Sam’s best friend Nan was SERIOUSLY annoying, constantly whining about how Sam’s life is perfect. Sam’s life does seem kind of easy, but it’s also pretty obvious that she’s not especially happy. She’s floating along, doing what she’s told, but she’s not LIVING. Nan especially annoyed me with this very minor thing: she constantly referred to her parents as “Mommy and Daddy.” I’m not saying when you reach a certain age you can NEVER call them that, but it just bothered me. It clashed with her characterization of this driven, goal-oriented perfectionist student who was also contemplating a sexual relationship with her very boring boyfriend. To give her this particular childlike mannerism just didn’t fit right.
*EDIT: I can’t believe I forgot about Tim! Tim was the drug addict, messed up brother to Nan. He’s the kind of deadbeat character you think you’ll hate, then he turns out to have a good heart. As Nan and Sam are growing apart, Tim fills the gap for a secondary character who is not the love interest. Would I let him babysit? NO WAY. Do I like his character? Heck yes!*
Now, the plot twist. (No spoilers here, check GoodReads for them if you want.) That plot twist was not at ALL what I was expecting given the blurb. NOT. AT. ALL. But in the very best way, because what did happen was so not cliche, so much better than expected, and handled in just an outstanding way. I have now been shocked by two books this month, which never happens. For that reason, My Life Next Door gets a full four stars!