For a time, the novelty of the circus had distracted from the fact that they had nothing in common. By the end of dinner, the greater truth of their incompatibility had been revealed. Perhaps it should have been obvious from their inability to reach consensus on an appetizer or from his main course admission that he disliked “old things” – antiques, houses, dogs, people. Still, Amelia had not allowed herself to be certain until dessert, when she’d asked him about the book that had had the greatest influence on his life, and he’d replied Principles of Accounting, Part II.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry | Gabrielle Zevin

“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.

My Life Next Door | Huntley Fitzpatrick

Book review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: TBD • Goodreads • Amazon
Publication Date: June 14, 2012
Source: Purchased

“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, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting 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.

Samantha Reed, daughter of state senator Grace Reed, has lived a very controlled and sheltered life. The Garretts, the large family next door, are the complete opposite of the Reeds, and Samantha’s mother has forbidden her from associating with them in any way. For the last ten years, Samantha has been secretly watching the Garretts, envying their freedom and the organized chaos of their lives. Her secret is discovered one night as Jase Garrett climbs up to sit next to her, and her life begins to change.

Samantha and Jase fall for each other pretty quickly, but their romance never feels rushed. Unlike many other YA novels, they manage to have a life outside of each other. Samantha works two jobs as a waitress and a lifeguard, and eventually picks up a third babysitting the youngest Garretts. She’s also taking an SAT prep course with her best friend Nan and helping Nan deal with her brother Tim’s alcoholism and drug addiction. Jase is equally well-rounded, working at his father’s hardware store, caring for his many animals, restoring his dream car, and training for football season, hoping to get a football scholarship for college. In fact, all the characters in the book are fully three-dimensional, with their own distinct voices (even the little kids!).

The blurb on the back of the book ominously states “then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world.” I thought it would be some unnecessary drama with her and Jase. I really did. A love triangle of some sort, or general teenage angst. I’m trying very hard to avoid spoilers, so all I’ll say is what happens is completely unexpected, and far from the typical Big Conflict of YA novels.

I loved almost everything about this book except for the ending. When I was maybe 50 or 75 pages from the end of the book, I remember thinking, there’s a lot left to happen and not a lot of pages for it to happen in. Well, the ending leaves a lot to the imagination. What happened with Jase’s dad? With Samantha’s mom? With Nan? Or even Tracy? What happened with Clay? I’m hoping that the sequel, though it focuses on Tim rather than Samantha, will answer some of these questions.

All in all, My Life Next Door is a wonderful book. I cannot believe that it was Huntley Fitzpatrick’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to read more from her.

Maybe if I can just sleep for a hundred years, I’ll wake up in a better story.

My Life Next Door | Huntley Fitzpatrick

Goodreads | Amazon

When I got the email from Netgalley that I was preapproved for Don’t Even Think About It, I was pretty excited. I’d never read any of Sarah Mlynowski’s books, but I had heard good things about her, so I figured now was as good a time as any to get started.

I am so, so disappointed.

Let’s start with the premise: Contemporary teen fiction with romance, secrets, scandals, and ESP. Sounds pretty cool. More interesting than my high school experience, at least. But the reality is nothing like the summary. The book is not about “romance, secrets, scandals, and ESP.” It’s about who’s hooking up. That’s really about it.

This book could have gone somewhere with the ESP. These kids could’ve turned into superheroes. They could’ve used their newfound powers for good. They could have done something instead of sitting around trying to figure out who likes who. They find out each other’s darkest secrets, but only romance-wise. It’s amazing that none of these kids think about anything else… ever.

Mackenzie cheated on CooperCooper found out that his dad cheated on his mom, and also that Mackenzie cheated on him. Tess has a crush on Teddy, who has a crush on Sadie, butSadie is dating Keith even though she doesn’t like him that much. BJ has a crush on Tess, butTess doesn’t believe it, despite being able to hear his thoughts. Olivia uses her ESP to snagLazar, who turns out to be a jerk once she has to listen to his thoughts all the time. And Pi, well, she actually uses her ESP to get better grades. At least it’s not another crush.

I think this book has more love triangles than anything else I’ve ever read. Literally every character, minus the studious Pi, has more than one love interest. It’s tiring. I don’t care.

The writing style is creepy. First person plural – there is no “I,” just “we.” It’s as if all the “espies” have merged their brains into one giant hive mind. This ominous, omniscient narrator knows what is going on in every single person’s head at all times. In general, I take issue with first person omniscient, but it’s especially creepy in this case, as it reads like all 22 students of homeroom 10B are speaking at once.

And as if those issues weren’t enough, I just could not get on board with how these kids developed telepathy. From a flu shot? Really? [spoiler removed] Is Mlynowski trying to make a statement with this?

Add to that the way it was dealt with by the school and the government, and I just walked away shaking my head. This book could have and should have been so much better than it was.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free advanced copy.

[also posted here]