Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: YA, contemporary, AWESOME
Publication Date: June 14, 2012 (North America – Dial/Penguin)
Summary: A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.
“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, 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?
A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – a stunning YA contemporary debut!
Review: This one REALLY took me by surprise. If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know that I’m not really into contemporary YA at all. But with its charming characters, awful villain, and ambiguous in-betweens with some serious choices that need to be made, “My Life Next Door” delivers in just a way that not only did I not expect, but really satisfies in a sea of condescending YA contemporary tropes and forgettable characters. “My Life Next Door” will make you laugh, cry, and shake your fist all within the span of 350 pages and is one debut that can’t be missed this year.
What I think I like the most about this book is the fact that no character is utterly good, or utterly evil (well, except maybe for Clay – he’s pretty gross). Everyone is on their on gray spectrum of good and bad, which I really appreciated. The parents weren’t immediately labeled as the enemy, as what’s been happening more often than not in contemporary YA as of late, nor were the children labeled as the problem. The characters were fantastically constructed – and with a cast of so many, I think the fact that the main characters each had their own character journey arc really helped make them not only memorable, but really almost like real friends by the time the book was done. It’s really rare for me to enjoy a contemporary story like this, and I think, ultimately, it was the characters that made this book what it is. Which is, awesome.
What also was pretty great was the moral dilemmas brought up and Samantha’s real struggle with them. What I thought was a nice touch was the (kind of late, but whatever) insertion of Grace’s character arc when one of the bigger decisions must be made, and people have to take sides.
The worldbuilding was minutely detailed – again, in large part due to the characters inhabiting them. It’s like Fitzpatrick went and inverted our globe around this world of the Garretts and this seaside town. Some might argue that if the story is not in the fantasy or sci-fi genre, there isn’t any worldbuilding needed. I disagree – sometimes the worldbuilding, even if it’s just certain parts of the main character’s world that get changed or shaped a certain way, it counts as worldbuilding and it’s needed as such. Fitzpatrick did this simply and elegantly by making the world revolve around everyone “next door” – both around Samantha and the Garretts.
There was no point in the book where my attention started to wander. I was riveted the entire time. It’s hard to keep me that interested the entire time, especially in the contemporary genre. If, like me, you’re hesitant to dip your toes into the contemporary pool and are mostly a sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal fan, I say, take the plunge with “My Life Next Door”. It was just absolutely fantastic and it’s gotten its very well-deserved place on my best of 2012 so far list. It’s out now from Dial/Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out! This is one contemporary debut you really can’t miss this year.