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.

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