My Life Next Door
“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.
Verdict = 3.5/5
I checked out this book because I heard good things about author Huntley Fitzpatrick and I was not disappointed. While My Life Next Door has some flaws, it is a great summer romance with an engaging story and well-developed characters.
Fitzpatrick dives straight into the story, introducing the conflict in the first sentence:
“The Garretts were forbidden from the start.“
Samantha Reed is the daughter of Grace Reed, a single mother and state senator obsessed with appearance and status. Over the years Sam has watched her next door neighbours from her bedroom window. One day the handsome boy next door surprises her by climbing up the side of her house to introduce himself!
Two distinct kinds of family are contrasted in this book – the neat vs the messy. The Reeds are presentable but cold, the Garretts are messy but wholesome. You could also argue that two kinds of mothers are also contrasted in this book – the career woman trying to forge her own identity and the woman who finds fulfillment in being a nurturer to her children. Grace Reed is elitist, materialistic and judgmental in the eyes of her daughter Sam. And yes, I did not like the character, as she did some awful things throughout the course of the story. However, unlike many younger readers I can identify with her to a degree. As mothers we love our children and want the best for them, but as we devote our time and energy to our families we often find our sense of self slipping away. Grace says as much to Sam at different points throughout the book. It is true that Sam’s mum does some bad things in this book, but as a mum I can understand her at times.
It is interesting that Mrs Garrett is never referred to by her name – she is always a variation of ‘Mum’ or simply Mrs Garrettt. I’m not sure if that was intentional on the part of the author, but it is very telling of the kind of role Mrs Garrett has in the book’s world. She is a mother and her life revolves around her eight children. This is NOT a bad thing. I have always believed that women should be empowered to be whomever they want to be – whether it is a mum, a career woman, a mix of the two or something else entirely. The author definitely preferences the nurturing role (she has six children herself), but is careful to show the negative side of this lifestyle through the Garrett’s financial troubles.
The relationship between Sam and Jase is a bit insta-love, but not so much that it is completely unrealistic. Sam is quickly absorbed into Garrett household and attempts to hide her relationship with Jase from her snobbish mother who would surely disapprove. Jase and Sam grow closer and attempt to navigate the uncertainty of young love and other life issues.
Jase is a great leading man, down-to-earth but respectful, he is a nurturer himself, taking responsibility for his younger siblings. Sam is a bit undeveloped, while it’s clear she is smart, responsible and loves to swim I would have liked to read more about her other interests. What does she want to be when she grows up? What are her favourite bands? Books? I really liked the character, but I would have enjoyed knowing more about her.
The villain of the story is sleazy, manipulative Clay Tucker. Without giving too much away I will say that this character adds a dark element to the story. Continually putting his interests before all others he is a horrible person that you will enjoy hating.
The book blurb foreshadows a massive twist for leading lady and it does not disappoint. However, the way Sam initially deals with this drama was very disappointing and surprising, given how her character had been presented previously.
Another reason I gave this book a rating of 3.5 as opposed to 4 was because I thought the ending was rushed and numerous plot lines were left open. I can’t talk about it without giving too much away, but I really would have liked to see how Sam’s relationship with certain characters progressed. A few conflicts remained unresolved at the end of the novel.
Extra points for Tim and little George, they were great additions to the cast.
Thanks for reading 🙂