Magan: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publication Date: April 15th 2014
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Pages: 240 Target Audience: (Maturer) Young Adult
Keywords: summer job, divorced parents, opposites attract, sexually driven female
Format Read: Purchased e-book for my kindle.

Summary: Gwen wants to get away from Seashell after she graduates high school, but she’s got this overwhelming feeling she’ll be stuck there forever. She lusts after the fancy lives of the weekenders while falling for the summer lawn boy, Cass, whose life is completely opposite hers in nearly every way.

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Tension galore. Some mysterious backstory. Two people who “shouldn’t” be together. That sums up What I Thought Was True in the tiniest nutshell. Gwen lives on a tiny island where her family definitely isn’t the wealthiest. In fact, she lives in a quaint home with her mom, grandfather, cousin, and younger brother (who has something like autism, but it’s never named specifically in the story). Her father owns a restaurant that Gwen chooses not to work at when another opportunity arises; she’s to care for an elderly, wealthy islander who is recovering from an accident. Aside from the pay being better, she’s trying desperately to separate herself from her parent’s destiny. She doesn’t want to be stuck in Seashell forever.

Unbeknownst to Gwen, Cass, the boy she’s severely attracted to but wants to stay far from, gets a job as the island lawn boy for the summer. With her new job, this means she’ll be seeing a lot of Cassidy Summers. Cass and Gwen begin bumping into one another in random locations. She is confused by the boy she begins to get to know because the friends he chooses to hang around seem to contradict the sweet, gentlemanly guy he appears to be. The one thing she can’t quite get past is her reputation and the decisions she’s made. This was the area I really felt could have used a bit more character development; Gwen comes across as a promiscuous girl, but I wanted Fitzpatrick to really make a point and not allude to it. Was Gwen the type of girl who was sexually explorative or had she made decisions because she thought that’s what she was supposed to do?

My thoughts are that Gwen was very sexually driven, but that also caused me to not relate to her as much because it seemed she was hypocritical. It would be okay for her to want to jump Cassidy’s bones, but if he tried to make a move on her, she was ready to bail a split second later. There was always an internal struggle for Cass and Gwen because they were terrible communicators, but for the sake of wanting to relate to Gwen on a deeper level, I needed to understand why she was so finicky. (Cass was more relatable and down-to-earth; I quite possibly would have enjoyed the story more if it had been from his perspective.)

Much, much, much of the story is focused on Cass and Gwen’s tango of a relationship. So much so that the interesting side-stories get watered down and when the big climax happens, things don’t quite click because not enough details were there for things to fall into place. Gwen’s cousin, Nico, and his girlfriend/Gwen’s best friend, Vivian, have pretty significant roles in the story, but like in My Life Next Door when the giant SURPRISE OH MY GOSH moment happens, I felt a little derailed again because I just didn’t see it coming. (In hindsight, I’m wondering if this is a technique Fitzpatrick employs or if it’s from a lack of developing those secondary stories. I’d like to read a story of hers that doesn’t make me feel like I missed all the big clues along the way.)

Don’t get me wrong — there are some wonderful (Cass teaching Gwen’s brother how to swim) and juicy (ahem, that tension builds, y’all) moments, but they felt overshadowed by what seemed to be lacking from the story. I didn’t walk away with a light and happy feeling, nor really feel like Gwen had gone through the major transformation I was expecting. When it comes right down to it, maybe I just really missed all of the rambunctious Garrett family members from My Life Next Door. They’re pretty darn hard to beat.

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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
Keywords
: 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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