Book Review: My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Release Date: June 2012 
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 416 
Source: NetGalley

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase’s family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

Short of it: This is not an action-based book and is a bit slow moving. However, it’s a fantastic book with memorable characters.

Plot: I went into this one thinking it would be a cute beach read. A nice little romance with lots of kissing and falling in love. Instead what I got was so much more. Yes, there was lots of kissing and falling in love, but for me it wasn’t the heart of the novel. In fact, I would say the heart and soul of the book is family. How different families function and how the picture perfect ones are far from perfect or the best.

The plot is rather slow moving, but in a way it was perfect. I love character-driven stories way more than plot-driven ones. However, it does speed up a bit about halfway through when a bombshell is dropped. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s massive. It challenges the boundaries of family and what is right and wrong. Samantha truly struggles with doing the right thing, especially since it means that everything in her world could crumble. It was something that no 17 year old should ever have to decide and my heart went out to her fully. While I’m not sure that ending was 100% believable (are people really that nice?), it stayed in character with how the family acted.

Character:  I liked Samantha a lot. She knew her mother’s opinions of the world were skewed and she wasn’t afraid to jump the tracks, so to speak, when the opportunity came. While I hated that she hide Jase from her mother for a while I also completely understand. It’s hard to come clean with something you know will upset your parents even when you know how wrong they are. Plus, Samantha was kind of painted as the mature, perfect child and I imagine that pressure made it harder. Overall, Samantha is a great character and one easy to relate to.

However, I do have to say the Garrett children are what truly stole the show, especially George and Patsy. Seriously, how could you not love a little girl whose first words were boob and poop? Or a little boy who knows too much trivia (and is often scared by it). I kind of wanted to hug and squish them and made me wish I had kids like them in my life.

Romance: This is what a relationship should be. There was no instant love between Jase and Samantha, but a slow building romance. Yes, it may have been a little weird that he suddenly climbs up to her roof and how she decides to just go over the next day, but oddly enough it worked for me. It was this awkward sweetness that I could see happening in real life. And even though she’s pulled into Jase and his family’s life instantly, there is still a period of getting to know each other and creating a friendship. The fact that the first kiss doesn’t come until 100 pages was perfect. Jase knew that Samantha wouldn’t be an easy girl to catch, but he was willing to give her the time and attention needed to win her over. Sure, there are still a few flaws here and there, but overall their relationship is one of the most down to earth & healthiest I’ve read in a long time.

Writing: This was the only place I had some issues. There were several spots that the wording was quite rough and I had to read them three or four times to make sure I was understanding it correctly. Granted it wasn’t a lot, but the few that happened really pulled me out of the story. However, I was reading an ARC and these areas may have been corrected since then. Overall, Fitzpatrick knows how to write a beautiful story. A fabulous debut and I look forward to what she creates next.

Librarian-Mode: I’ve seen several people say this an Anna and the French Kiss read-a-like, but I’m not sure that it fits. Sure, romance lovers will eat this up, but I think it’s better paired with Sarah Dessen or Elizabeth Scott.

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