My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Samantha falls for Jase, the boy next door who is totally off limits.
Samantha lives next door to the Garretts who are completely off limits because her mother considers them a nuisance (they apparently lower the property value of the houses around them). One day, she meets Jase Garrett and starts falling for him. She is quickly brought into the world of the Garretts which is practically alien territory for her considering she's grown in a single parent household with a politician for a mother. As Samantha's relationship with Jase grows she finds herself working harder to keep it a secret from everyone, including her best friend and her mother. When something happens at the end and Samantha has some information that could change everything, she is forced to make a decision between her own family and the Garretts.
Samantha Reed - Samantha is the kind of girl who has never really stepped out of her boundaries nor has she ever questioned anything in her life. We get to see her grow up over the course of the summer and make that transformation from being an in-betweener/teenager to being an adult.
Jase Garrett- The cute boy next door who loves animals. He is an absolute sweetheart and cares very much about his family.
Tim - He is probably the smartest character in the entire story, book wise and street wise. Tim has a story all of his own and he is the most developed character in the entire novel. His transformation from start to finish is absolutely amazing.
I was a little disappointed with the ending if only because if seemed to happen so fast and everything was just perfectly convenient. Most of the book is spent building the relationship between Jase and Samantha and the number of pages between the climax and the conclusion are very few, in comparison. It was like building, building, building, BAM! Something happens... a few pages later everything is all worked out. Ok, maybe it wasn't a few, maybe it was more like 50 but it seemed like it was so fast. I wanted more substance in that conclusion and I did not want everything to be perfect because everything wasn't perfect in the rest of the novel which made me like the novel more. I don't like quick endings. I want more build up and more time to resolve everything.
The Overall Opinion
I don't know if YA books with big families is a thing but if it is, I want to join the fan club. The first, and probably only other, book that I've read with a big family is Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys. I loved that book and couldn't help but remember it as I was reading this one. The families in both books are very loveable and filled with very different characters. I had no problem differentiating between the eight siblings in My Life Next Door though (George was my favorite but don't tell).
My favorite character in the entire novel was Tim. He changes so much from start to finish and my opinion of him in the beginning was probably the opposite of what I was feeling about him at the end. I'm so excited that he's getting a novel of his own, The Boy Most Likely To (companion novel to My Life Next Door), because I really want to hear his story and see where his life goes. His sister was a totally different matter though. I can't remember her name and I think I can honestly say that I liked her about as much as I liked the antagonist, which is not much at all. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever. I almost wish that her character didn't even exist because she was very much a side story that did not need to happen.
Samantha and Jase's relationship was very sweet. I loved Jase from the beginning. Samantha, on the other hand, I found myself getting very frustrated with. I felt like she would identify the problems in her life and she would recognize all the things she was doing wrong but she wouldn't do anything about it. I was so annoyed with her for keeping her relationship with Jase a secret for as long as she did. At the end, she's forced to do something and she does but even then she had to be prodded towards action otherwise she was probably going to just live with not really doing much.
I really enjoy contemporary novels, they were my first love when I started reading YA, so it was nice to read a good contemporary novel this year. Huntley Fitzpatrick is a very exciting new YA author and I will be eagerly waiting to read Tim's story.