Review: My Life Next Door – Huntley Fitzpatrick

my life next door - huntley fitzpatrick

“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?

Even before I started reading, everything about My Life Next Door made me think of summer — a cute family, sunny days, an adorkable (sort of illicit) relationship with the boy next door. Though it certainly delivered everything it promised me, there is something slightly misleading about this novel’s pretty (or charmingly-awkward) cover. My Life Next Door is more than a casual beach read.

Samantha Reed lives in the perfectly arranged, prim, magazine-catalogue house, next door to a huge, messy, warm family, completely the opposite of hers. Since the beginning (when they first move in), Huntley Fitzpatrick mesmerized me with the Garretts’ world. I can’t describe how much I wanted to know these people, to live next door (or, as creepy as this may sound, in their house with them) to such a fun-loving, adorable family. Though they fought and argued and disagreed like any other family, it was easy to see how much they truly cared about each other, the imperfect model to which no other family in this novel can compare.

The heart of My Life Next Door is the relationships — not Sam’s relationship with Jase Garrett, but various relationships between family and friends. While the Garretts made me want to adopt them, I thought the interactions between Sam and her family, and her best friend Nan’s family (the Masons) were equally interesting and more heartbreaking. I’ll be honest: I spent most of this novel muttering under my breath about how unfit Grace Reed was to be a mother, let alone a senator, or how the hypocrisy of her campaign both disturbed and amused me. I also hated, especially because I have friends whose families are falling apart for similar reasons, the way the Masons turned a blind eye to all of Tim’s (Nan’s brother’s) shenanigans, instead of trying to actually help or understand him. As much as they frustrated me, I appreciated the realism, and my heart went out to Samantha and Tim the more they hurt and struggled. On the other hand, I truly enjoyed watching Tim grow as a character, slowly creeping into Sam and the Garretts’ hearts (and my own) until it became impossible to imagine the story without him.

I especially loved the way Huntley Fitzpatrick revealed much about her characters through the choices they made. As an honest and relatable narrator, though I didn’t always like the decisions she made, Samantha was easy to understand, and I hoped she’d become more comfortable with herself and her life.

Spoilery Scribbles

It astonished me how quickly Tim transformed from “that character who was pitiable and frustrating” to “that character who was hilarious, amusingly annoying, and awesome”. And during his not-so-awesome moments, I was still interested in the history he shared with Samantha. If you can’t tell, after a certain point, I lived for his presence on the page.

For the most part, I enjoyed the slow pacing of the novel, delighting in the homely atmosphere next door. I also thought it was brilliant that the story didn’t head in the direction I thought it would (with the primary conflict being Sam’s secret romance with Jase). Unfortunately, because the actual main conflict wasn’t introduced until the story was already 75% over, the last quarter (and the conflict’s resolution) felt too rushed and almost unnatural. I also thought it was a little strange the way Jase wasn’t too hurt that Samantha had kept him a secret from her mom, but at the same time, I liked that they were able to get past the hurdles in their relationship maturely.

The Garretts have a pet snake. Named Voldemort. The Harry Potter fangirl in me flailed.

Warning: Though it’s tastefully and realistically done, and it isn’t graphic at all, there is a small sex scene.

Patsy is the cutest baby ever. And I love that “boob” and “poop” are the only words she can say.

 Nan bothered me through most of My Life Next Door, but it made me angry the way she used her petty jealousy and her own mistakes to just end her “best-friendship” with Sam. I know there are times in real life when certain decisions and arguments cause a friendship to fizzle out of existence, and not all relationships are salvageable, but I hated that no one tried, no one talked it out. The issue was left unresolved, and sure, I wouldn’t even want to be friends with a person like Nan, but this loose end hit me hard.

As brief as the analysis was, I loved that Sam noticed the connection between the guys her mom chooses to date, the way she acts around them, and her own sense of self-worth and personal strength. It’s a random observation, but it was refreshing to see a YA heroine comment on how sad it is when a woman, even if it’s her own mother, loses sight of who she is because of a guy (especially an ass like Clay).

 If it isn’t already obvious… I’d like to punch Clay Tucker in the face.

Jase reminded me of one of my favorite YA contemporary males, Wes Baker from Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever. Talented, patient, sweet, understanding, thoughtful — he was the perfect boyfriend in a messy-haired, olive-skinned, sinewy-built package. Part of me did feel that Jase may have been a little TOO good to be real, but this didn’t deter me from appreciating the novel or adoring the character. I do, however, wish we had gotten to know him on a deeper level, the way Sam knows him now that he’s an actual person in her reality and no longer just part of the unattainable bedtime story over the fence.

Overall, My Life Next Door is a candid tale about love, family, friendship, and the role choices, pre-conceived notions, and self-identity play in our lives. Readers seeking a charming summer romance (or more) should definitely pick it up.

Aimee

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. megtao
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 12:17:56

    I just added this to my tbr yesterday because I heard such good things about it. Glad to hear you enjoyed it as well! Also, I’m completely jealous of how professional and awesome your blog looks!

    Reply

    • aimee
      Jun 29, 2012 @ 22:12:25

      Yay! Let me know when you read it! It’s the kind of book that is both a fluffy, feel-good romance, and a deeper, issue-filled, thought-provoking novel as well. And (most of) the characters were kind of awesome too, so I’d definitely recommend it.

      And aww, thank you! I’m kind of awful with coding and html, but I’m learning tons from my sister. And she made me my marauder signature, which I’m kind of in love with, even if Prongs’ hoofprints look kind of weird next to Padfoot and Moony’s pawprints.

      Reply

  2. Brenna
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 14:44:15

    yay! I was so happy to read your review today- I have so much love for this book, and I think your review pretty much nailed it all perfectly. There were so many big AND little things to love about this one.
    Brenna from Esther’s Ever After

    Reply

    • aimee
      Jun 29, 2012 @ 22:16:46

      Thanks! You’re actually the only person I know who has also read this already, and I’m glad you loved it as much as I did. (I’m also glad I’m not the only one who immediately thought of The Truth About Forever while reading this – it’s the first time any book has strongly reminded me of that one, and that’ll always be my favorite Dessen novel.) And YES, there are so many little details to love, as well as the overarching themes, and I loved how the secondary characters were just as interesting as the main ones.

      Reply

  3. Jen @ Almost Grown-up
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 17:25:51

    Gahhh, I want to read this even more now. Love when an author can make you \ hate characters, but remain true to life.

    Also ditto what Meg said! I love the crescent bullet points, and gahhh, your signature too!

    Reply

    • aimee
      Jun 29, 2012 @ 22:34:11

      Yes! I don’t expect to love every character in books, but I love it when a book has deplorable characters, but in a totally… realistic way. (Lol, for some reason when I say it, it sounds crazy. And I don’t know why I’m suddenly thinking of Umbridge because she has nothing to do with this book, and I hope I never meet her in real life. –Er, sorry, random interlude is random. )

      And thank you!❤ The crescent moon bullet points were a last minute thing, but I'm loving the way they turned out. The signature is my favorite, once again courtesy of my photoshop-loving sister. (The marauder-y footprints are my favorite!)

      Reply

  4. Briana
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 20:10:58

    I also felt this was a rare book in that while I did not always agree with the choices the characters made, I totally liked them. Usually I see drugs in a book and am completely unsympathetic to the character’s plight. I don’t read a lot of contemporary, but this one was great! I will definitely read Fitxpatrick’s next book.

    Reply

    • aimee
      Jul 09, 2012 @ 21:16:47

      This is exactly how I felt! It surprised me how much I ended up loving Tim (when I didn’t think I would at all when we were first introduced to him). (I’m not the most sympathetic when it comes to drugs either, so that was a definite surprise.) I can’t wait to see what Huntley Fitzpatrick writes next!

      Reply

  5. Trackback: [Top Ten Tuesday] Top Ten Books I Read in 2012 « penmanshipsmitten
  6. Trackback: [review] My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick | coffeeandwizards

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