Book Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
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?
This book started out a bit slow for me. Part of that was just my frame of mind – I was looking at all the books on my shelf that I want to read, and I decided that I didn’t really care about My Life Next Door, which was my last remaining library book. I decided to give it a few chapters and then stop reading it. Well, clearly I didn’t stop reading it. That speaks well for the book, but not as well as I would have hoped. It’s like when you’re watching TV and you don’t really care what’s on but you’re too lazy to get up and change the channel, so you just keep watching it. Obviously reading is a bit more active than watching TV, but for the first half of the book I didn’t really feel like I was compelled to keep reading.
That’s not to say that there weren’t things to enjoy about this book. There were a lot. I felt like the characters were very realistic. They didn’t always behave in ways that were appropriate or right, but I could understand their motives for doing so. There was a bit with Samantha and her friend Nan that seemed a bit out of place to me, but other than that I loved the characters. The Garrets were a wonderful family to read about. You would think that with a family of seven kids, the others would sort of blend into the background, but they didn’t. They all (with the minor exceptions of Duff and Harry, whom I kept mixing up) had their own personalities and quirks, which was great.
I also enjoyed the way that Samantha and Jase’s relationship was handled. They’re seventeen years old, and they handle the issue of sex rather maturely. They talk about condoms before they’re ready to have sex, so that they are prepared for when they actually do have sex. They actually talk and hang out with each other before they kiss. There’s no instant “I love you and want to spend eternity with you” – or at least no more than you would expect from two teenagers who are in love for the first time.
That said, even though there were elements of the story that I loved, I didn’t really feel compelled to keep reading until about two-thirds of the way through the novel, when Samantha’s world starts to fall apart. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that something big happens, and after that point I had to keep reading. Parts of what happened were extremely realistic, and I loved reading about how Fitzpatrick dealt with Samantha’s conflicting emotions. On the other hand, the ending wasn’t quite what I was expected. I guess I expected something more dramatic, and I’m not sure if my expectations were unrealistic or if the book’s ending was.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Fitzpatrick is definitely a talented writer, and I would read more from her. This is also a book I would like to have in my classroom as a high school teacher (assuming, of course, that I wouldn’t be fired for letting students read a book about teenagers to have sex).