Title: My Life Next Door
Published: June 14, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
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.
- This may very well be the review where I gush until my mouth and fingers just fall off. I absolutely adored this book, and it’s going on my often unattainable top shelf.
The Low-Down: Exactly like the description states, this is an incredible story about “family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person without betraying another.” From the outside looking in, the Reeds have the cookie-cutter family minus the father figure, living a relatively privileged life in a large, tidy home with wealth, country club dinners, and endless opportunities. Grace, the mom, is a politician working countless hours on her campaign to become the state senator of Connecticut as well as striving to be a “good” single mother
by suffocating her children with college-driven activities. Tracey, the eldest child, is sort of the rebel of the family, always trying to break away from the mold that her mom tries so desperately to force her into at every turn. That leaves our main character, Samantha, later dubbed Sam, who is a seventeen-year-old girl that lets her perfectionist mother dictate her summer and fill it with extra-curricular jobs all for the sake of playing the good daughter. Secretly though, for over ten years now and unbeknownst to her mom, Sam climbs atop her balcony every night to watch her next door neighbors, trying to imagine what it would be like to be one of them.
Them being the Garretts, a family that’s everything the Reeds are not and completely off limits according to Sam’s mother. They’re a rambunctious group with two loving parents and eight kids. Much to Grace’s dismay, they’re loud, their yard is always messy, and they practically “lower real estate values” just by existing. As to be expected with such a large family, they also have financial struggles, but they’re “rich in all the things that matter.”
Everything changes one night for Sam while she spies on the Garrets in their back yard, though, because Jase climbs up her trellis and onto her roof, hunkering down into Sam’s secret hiding spot and changing her life forever.
“Hey,” he says again, sitting down next to me as though he knows me so well. “Need rescuing?”
Author Ego-Booster: So honestly, my love of this book knows no bounds… in case you missed that by the shelf rating. If I could track Huntley Fitzpatrick down (In a non-stalkerish way, I’m not a creeper. Honest.), I’d probably tackle-hug her, smother her with fangirl snuggles, and probably spend days on end singing her praises. Yes, this book is that great!
Back a few months ago, I saw this title on Net Galley and I instantly knew that I had to have it and that I would love it. That cover, which pictures don’t do justice, is so pretty! It alone gave me the warm and fuzzies. Unfortunately, I was turned down for viewing at that time, so I stalked kept a watchful eye on it, and waited patiently for my copy to come in the mail after publication. Then began all the reviews on Goodreads and everyone and their blog buddies were spreading their absolute love of this book, and after reading, it’s not hard to see why.
First off, the complexity of the story and its characters is so deep. Woven throughout this novel is a dozen subplots that include but aren’t limited to Grace’s struggles as a single parent, the financial burdens and judgement that comes with having a larger family, the darker side to political work, addiction, sexuality (which the Fitzpatrick handles positively as well as responsibly) and several types of betrayal. It seems like it would be overwhelming, but the author handled each issue with a degree of finesse that speaks volumes about her work and the storyline never grew muddled. Each conflict felt personal to its character and was approached with the level of tenderness and edge it required, making it easier to connect and identify with each of their stories.
Often times, books and characters are described as “sucks you right in” or “leaps off the page,” but to say that about this novel would seem like an understatement it in my eyes. These characters were four-dimensional, doing more than leaping off the page. I saw and heard their interactions, felt very much a part of their lives, and I loved every minute of it. I also enjoyed that each character had quirks about them, that no one was perfect, and that made them so much more real for me. More identifiable.
Despite loving and being fascinated by all the characters (even the bad, sucky ones that made me want to punch things), I’d have to say that Jase and his four-year-old brother, George, were my favorites by far. Jase, *girly sigh*, brought the swoons by the bucketloads. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a male character that managed to maintain an authentic boy vibe while still making me get butterflies, heartflutters, and smile like an idiot quite like he did. He had me boiling hot and heart-melting through this whole book.
He looks up at my face, his eyes drowsy and dazzled. “I know. I know. I want too. But not like this. Not with no time. Not with nothing—” He swallows. “Not like this. But Jesus, Samantha. Look at you.”
And the way he does look at me makes me feel absolutely beautiful.
“I can’t look away,” he whispers huskily. “But I have to go.” Taking a deep breath, he buttons my nightgown back up, then presses a kiss to my throat.
He pulls my lower lip gently with his teeth, then fits his mouth to mine. First so careful, and then so deep and deliberate, that I can’t think of anything at all but his smooth back under my hands.
Come on now! I mean, Jeez Louise. And I’ll just stop there before I end up quoting the entire book. Let it be known that I called myself “limiting” my updates on Goodreads and still ended up with fifteen, that’s not even counting all the jabbering I did on twitter. (I also giggled like mad and re-swooned while looking back over all these.)
Then George has to be the most adorable toddler boy on the planet. I instantly loved him and now I’m secretly trying to find a boy exactly like him so that I can adopt. He steals every single scene he’s in and I could just eat him up. #TeamGeorge
“Did you know that in space it’s very, very cold? And there’s no oxygen? And if an astronaut fell out of a shuttle without his suit he’d die right away?”
I’m a fast learner. “But that would never happen. Because astronauts are really, really careful.”
George gives me a smile, the same dazzling sweet smile as his big brother, although at this point, with green teeth. “I might marry you,” he allows. “Do you want a big family?”
“Is Jase already gonna marry you?”
I start coughing again. “Uh, No. No, George. I’m only seventeen.” As if that’s the only reason we’re not engaged.
“I’m this many.” George holds up four, slightly grubby fingers. “But Jase is seventeen and a half. You could. Then you could live in here with him. And have a big family.”
Jase strides back into the room, of course, midway through this proposition. “George. Beat it. Discovery Channel is on.”
George backs out of the room but not before saying, “His bed’s really comfortable. And he never pees in it.”
Cutest kidlet ever, right? But there’s so much more to this book than its characters, even though I’ve honestly never read a book where I loved every single character (even the ones you love to hate) more than I did with this one.
Drawbacks: My biggest complaint with this book is the “incident” which is the major conflict of the story. In the spirit of keeping this review mostly spoiler-free, I’ll only say that I wished that there had been bigger consequences for all the guilty parties and that everything appeared to have been swept in a too nice and tidy pile of dirt under the rug for my taste. I would have liked to have seen some real repercussions. But then, when I truly sat and thought about it, I remembered that although the characters in the story didn’t necessarily handle the situation the way in which I thought was appropriate, that maybe it was handled in the way that those particular characters would’ve taken care of it.
Special Notes: The *ahem* more “intimate” scenes in this book were FREAK-ING-HOT. Like, jumping into flowing volcano lava hot.
Verdict: Why are you even still here reading this review? Shouldn’t you have already left to go to the bookstore or clicked over to your favorite store online? Go buy this book, go borrow it from the library, go snatch it out of your neighbor’s hand because this is one you don’t want to miss out on. Then come find me- here, twitter, Goodreads, my home, wherever- so we can squee and flail together! Promise?
Huntley Fitzpatrick is a genius and I’ll be reading everything she writes. (Please say that you’re working on a sequel or companion book for this! Pretty please?!) This book isn’t on my top shelf, it’s been bumped up to nightstand status. I’ll need it handy for those late-night swoon withdrawals.