My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick 
Publication Date
: June 14, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books
Pages: 395
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
: Young love, next door neighbors, traumatic event
Source: eBook received from NetGalley for review.

Summary: Sam has watched the Garrett family from her rooftop for ten years. Her mother has kept her at a distant from the large, chaotic family, but once she begins running for political office, she loosens her tight grip on Samantha. One evening Jase climbs up the trellis to Sam’s rooftop and the two quickly become friends.

I’m going to sound incredibly hypocritical when I admit this to you guys, but here goes nothin’. I have been anxious to read Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door since I saw the cover. I had visions of a great girl falling in love with her swoon-worthy next door neighbor. And oh, did this book deliver one heck of story when it came to that. What I didn’t expect were the million other amazing details that made me fall even more in love with Samantha and Jase.

Ten years ago, Jase’s (rather large) family moved next door to Samantha. For ten years, Sam has listened to her mother harp about how many children the Garrett’s have, how incapable they are of keeping up their house, how atrocious it is that they have toys scattered all over their lawn (and on and on and on). During those years Sam’s secretly watched the family from afar, intrigued by them. One night Jase climbs up the trellis of Sam’s house to keep her company; the two become fast friends and the barrier between Sam and the Garrett family crumbles to pieces.

Sam balances a fine line between making her uptight mother happy and falling in love with the boy next door. Her mother’s overprotectiveness drove me crazy but her outright ignorance for what a d-bag her new political campaign advisor, Clay, (who doubles as her boy toy) was really left me speechless. I often find myself cringing when teens make bad decisions and go against their parents wishes, but in Sam’s case, I was delighted she was finally breaking the mold her mother had so firmly cast around her. Sam is responsible to a fault – it’s summertime and she’s working two jobs and trying to help her friend Tim kick his drug habit and taking an SAT prep class with her friend Nan. Busy much? I think it’s safe to say that Sam needed a little excitement in her life.

One of the most beautiful aspects of My Life Next Door was watching Sam and Jase fall in love. Their relationship was an exploration of honest teenage emotions that relate to sex and experiencing so many things for the first time. Fitzpatrick approached this topic with such authenticity and tenderness. But not without a hefty amount of steaminess, mind you. So many of Sam’s internal dialogues conjured up questions and feelings my seventeen-year-old self also felt or thought.

Add in little side-helpings of Jase’s crazy, enormous, chaotic family and Sam’s friend, Tim, who needs all the help he can get kicking his drug dependency and you’ve got a lot of people to fall in love with. Fitzpatrick doesn’t just make us fall in love with her main characters – she gives us siblings with adorable quirks and unique fears. She makes us laugh when Sam adopts “Super Sailorgirl” as her super hero nickname. We understand the complexities of Tim and how flawed he and his sister Nan are. With so many people swiftly moving in an out of this story, Fitzpatrick does an incredible job of making us understand each and every one of them to grasp the big picture.

Everything in the story progresses beautifully until a very big event occurs. It’s a game changer. A curveball. A punch in the gut.

The best comparison I can offer is Looking for Alaska by John Green. If you’ve read this book, you’re aware that there’s a rather large event that changes the course and tone of the book. It takes the reader by complete surprise. The happy-go-lucky feel of the book suddenly becomes much heavier and depressing. While the event is not the same in My Life Next Door, I did have the same feelings as the result of the turn of events. My emotions became even more wrapped up in the story and I probably appeared more than a little agitated to all the passengers aboard my same flight that day. The pacing intensified as I waited for everything to implode – so many loose ends, so much drama, so much pain.

While I wholeheartedly believe this is a book you must read, there were a couple of details that I wish had been further explored. Perhaps a few more pages would have granted me the peace I was seeking after such a big event. I do recommend that you have a friend on standby who has read My Life Next Door because if I hadn’t had my pals Estelle and Ginger, I think I would’ve gone crazy.

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Magan: Looking for Alaska by John Green

black book covers with smoke, printz award book winnerLooking for Alaska by John Green
Release Date: March 3, 2005
Pages: 221
Target Audience: Young Adult (YA)
How I found out about it: Estelle recommended Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It wasn’t available at my library, but this was AND it was a 2006 Michael L. Printz Award winner.
Summary: Miles (aka: Pudge) is seeking his Great Perhaps – his one chance in life to do something he might regret later in life if he didn’t make a change in his life. He’s a nobody at his school in Florida, so he decides to leave his hometown to attend the boarding school his father went to in Alabama. It’s there that he meets Alaska – a girl with a crazy life story, who does a lot of drinking, and has little care for the school rules.

When I saw that Looking for Alaska was a Printz award winner and is holding steady at a 4.24 rating on Goodreads, I knew I had to add this book to my stack from the library.  The story begins with a glimpse into Miles’ life in Florida – lonely and dreadful – where his parents are throwing him a going away party. Two people who stay no longer than an hour show up; everyone else invited skips the party. I connected immediately to this story as Miles is heading to Alabama in search of his own Great Perhaps. He’s hoping to make friends, to have stories to tell later in life, and he’d like to have a girlfriend.

The story begins at ‘one hundred thirty-six days before’. There is no indicator as to what the before will be. Before what?  When Miles arrives at the boarding school, he meets his roommate, The Colonel, and the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, Alaska. Miles has a huge crush on Alaska, and I sort of hoped that the moment defining before and after would be something amazing between these two characters. Green kept me guessing right up until the second everything happened.  I have to be honest and say that what happened isn’t what I was expecting; though I loved the book and how everything tied up, this moment changed the dynamic of the book entirely.

I’m at a loss for words because I don’t know how to describe how beautifully this story was written without giving away every secret. Things I can share are how much I loved The Colonel and Miles’ relationship. They were two completely different guys coming from two very different worlds. They meshed together so well, and I couldn’t have been happier when I found out I was going to like the roommate.  Miles’ wittiness came out at the new school and his deadpan attitude was perfect.

This review seems so vague, but if anything I encourage you to read this book.

I definitely cannot wait to read more by John Green, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on Will Grayson, Will Grayson.