Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: YA contemporary
Length: 394 pages (Harry Potter reference, anyone?)
Published by: Speak, an imprint of Penguin
Source: borrowed it from the local library
“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.
This would have got four stars simply from the lovely summer romance and amazing writing. It gets the extra half-star because of the depth that really surprised me towards the end of the book.
Let’s start with characters. I think there were too many. What with the Garretts and the main character’s friend Nan and various boyfriends and other people, it got a little bit confusing. But the Garretts are a fantastic family. They kind of reminded me of the Weasleys.
In the Garrett family there are eight kids – from memory, Alice, Joel, Jase (main character’s boyfriend), Harry, George, Patsy, Duff and…okay, for the life of me I cannot remember the last one, but she’s a teenage girl. Anyway, I really loved this rambunctious family, and Huntley Fitzpatrick went to a lot of effort making each of them have distinct personalities. Outside this family, we also have Nan, Samantha’s best friend (weird name, but okay) and Tim.
I really liked Tim. He was pretty rough around the edges, an awful person at the beginning of the book. He was constantly swearing, drinking, smoking and making sexist comments, but towards the end he mellowed a bit and developed into a really strong asset for our main character.
There were a lot of swoonworthy moments in this book. The romance between Samantha and Jase was really cute.
But there was also a lot of depth in the story. My Life Next Door surprised me with the moral dilemma towards the end, and it’s not one of the ones where you know what the answer’s going to be. It’s even more powerful because I have no idea what I would have chosen in that situation. It’s not a case of black-and-white “this is right and this is wrong.” There are shades of right and wrong. But in the end, I think she did the right thing (no spoilers, though! You should read it).
Family is so often neglected in YA (for some reason), even though it’s often very important in a teenager’s life. I mean, at my age friends are becoming even more important, but we still depend on our families. That’s what I liked about My Life Next Door, how it focused on families, and different types of families. The Garretts are constantly abused by strangers who say things like “you shouldn’t have got pregnant again if you couldn’t afford it.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it, and it made me so mad! They’re a family and they love each other, and that really came through in this book.
All in all, I really loved it, and I’d like to read more of Huntley Fitzpatrick in the future.
Rating: 4.5/5 Wonderkitties