Published: 7th January 2016
Source: NetGalley (Eletric Monkey)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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.
I think My Life Next Door may be the book everyone talks about when they are recommending young adult contemporary reads to people. I hadn’t read it. This was partly because it wasn’t published in the UK and I wasn’t willing to pay the higher price for a US copy when I didn’t even know if I’d love the book, but it was also because I don’t like US paperbacks and avoid them if at all possible (except for my true must haves). Anyway, I hadn’t read the book and wasn't planning on ever reading it, but then it showed up on NetGalley for UK readers and I was intrigued. I’m glad I requested it now, and I am so excited for Electric Monkey to be publishing all of Fitzpatrick’s books. I will be slowly acquiring all of them for my shelf.
Why Has Everyone Been Raving?
Upon first glance, this book appears like most other YA contemporaries. It’s about a girl who falls in love with the boy next door. The premise is part of the reason I didn’t feel any immediate need to read this book. It sounded too similar to other books I’d read, and although I knew the writing would probably be good, a dull story doesn’t exactly inspire a need to read.
Anyway, Samantha has lived a restrained life, her mother is strict and has high expectations of her. Her sister is a rebel who does as she pleases, Samantha isn’t a rule breaker, she follows her mom’s rules and is content. Her smallest rebellion is she likes to spy on the Garrett’s, the large unruly family next door her mom judges. She is intrigued by the chaos and happiness she sees next door, nothing like her life. And then she meets Jase Garrett and she gets drawn into this messy family and falls in love. She knows her mom won’t approve, but who can stand in the way of happiness?
That isn’t the actual story, though. Sure, the couple fall in love (as did I with Jase, he’s lovely) but there is more to this story than first meets the eye. I won’t spoil anything because I love being surprised by the story, but let me assure you that you are getting far more than you expect from this book.
Let’s Move On To This Fantastic Cast Of Characters
Since I don’t want to reveal too much about the story (spoilers are a thing which could ruin this book) I will instead tell you all about how amazing these characters are. They are not perfect people (far from it) but they felt so real. I know everyone adores our main characters, especially Jase (because he is perfect) but there are wonderful secondary characters (who don’t get forgotten about and ignored when they don’t fit the plot).
There are two stand out secondary characters, George, one of the Garrett’s younger sons, who is just adorable. Honestly, if you going to have a younger brother he is the one you would want, sure, he can be a pest, but he is so insanely cute it is unbelievable. Then, on the other end of the personality spectrum we have Tim, the brother you wouldn’t necessarily wish upon yourself. Tim is Sam’s best friend, Nan’s, brother, but he is fantastic. He is into drugs and drinking and generally irresponsible, but as you read he grows on you and he slowly became my favourite character. He had a lot to struggle with (although the characters do) but he keeps so quiet about his issues, which is surprising given the drink and drugs.
But Can I Recommend It As Enthusiastically As Everyone Else?
When a book comes as highly recommended as this one it’s difficult to know if it can ever live up to such high praise. This is a book which can easily can because it is so different to what you expect. I didn’t think that as much would happen in this book as it did, and as I said before, the turn in the story is what made me rate it so highly.
I love a book with strong family ties, and a family like the Garretts certainly delivers on that front, as for the romance in this book, it was sweet and had as little drama as you could possibly expect. And then there were the friendships, they were complex and realistic and I certainly believed the paths they took.
Have you read My Life Next Door, did you enjoy it? And What was the last book you read which had fantastic reviews which you avoided for no apparent reason?