Falling in love with the boy next door was always one of my romantic fantasies (along with falling in love at boarding school, falling in love as a princess, falling in love in the airport, falling in love on a class trip, etc.). Just think about all the movies, television shows and music videos that feature this theme. That Taylor Swift video, the terrible-but-awesome movie Drive Me Crazy (also known as the last time Adrien Grenier was attractive)…you know, all the truly great works of our time. Unfortunately for me, my only neighbors when I was growing up were retirees who, while nice, held no romantic potential.
That’s why I loved reading My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, because Samantha Reed is living out my adolescent dream life. She lives with her rebellious sister and her perfectionist politician mom. Samantha’s sterile home environment makes her long for the Garretts next door–their family is loud and messy and big, with kids everywhere and a mother who openly breastfeeds outside (to which I say, good for you! People who are grossed out by breastfeeding are the worst kind of people.). Samantha contents herself with watching the Garretts from her rooftop and imagining what it must be like to be one of them. That’s until Jase, one of the older, hotter Garretts, climbs up on the roof with her and brings her into his family.
As Samantha grows to love the Garretts, she starts to love Jase in particular. And why wouldn’t she? He’s good-looking, he cares about his family, he can drive a motorcycle and he knows how to fix a car. I mean, I’d be interested in him for practical, car-repair reasons alone. But even as her relationship with Jase heats up, Samantha has to keep him a secret from her prim-and-proper mother, who would lose it if she knew her daughter was dating “one of those Garretts.” Samantha’s mom doesn’t see the Garrets as a fun, boisterous group…instead, she sees them as nothing more than an oversized family that’s bringing down their property value.
If this all sounds like a typical Romeo and Juliet romance to you, well then watch out, because there’s a crazy twist you won’t see coming. Well, unless you read some reviews online that gave it away like I did. I’m not saying this twist is Jamaican-wife-hidden-in-the-attic levels of crazy, but it is unexpected and the less you know about it, the better. Anyway, Samantha is forced to make an incredibly difficult decision and figure out, on her own, how to do the right thing.
My Life Next Door manages to blend together some family issues, friendship problems, class divides, serious drama and totally swoony romance. If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han (and, um, who isn’t?), you’ll love My Life Next Door.
-Although I hated him at first, I really grew to love Sam’s friend Nan’s brother, Tim. “Affably douchey stoner prep kid” isn’t a character we see enough in fiction.
-I first heard of My Life Next Door from Lauren Morrill’s list of 5 YA novels that inspire her. Since I loved all of her other favorites (especially The Truth About Forever), I figured I’d love this book, too. Clearly, I was right. And if you haven’t checked out Lauren Morrill’s Meant to Be yet, you can read my review here.
-I’ve mentioned my love of summer beach books before, and this is another great entry in the genre. Seriously, when do I get to have a teenage summer beach adventure? And don’t say, “Never, Kerry, because you’re 26.” That’s not an acceptable answer.
What about you guys? Have you read My Life Next Door? And did you ever dream about falling in love with your next door neighbor? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education! Leave a comment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.