Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Life Next Door, Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next DoorThe Garretts were forbidden from the start. But that's not why they were important.

"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 is most certainly a guilty pleasure for me. It's YA romance, and it's not worth anything in a literary sense. At all. But it was entertaining, and I'm glad that I won the Goodreads First Reads giveaway. My Life Next Door certainly is a perfect read for the summer; something light and entertaining. It was a very quick read too; I read a lot of it on the flight to Albuquerque; I probably would have finished the whole thing then, but I wanted to save some for later. The writing overall was pretty solid (first person, present tense as one might expect), although in the later middle sections, it was kind of a bit shaky, as if either the author or the copy editor had forgotten to proofread it. That was just a few pages though.

I really did like the romance, although I found myself hiding the cover while reading this book in public. It's not that it's bad; in fact, it's a very pretty cover for this kind of book, and it portrays the book well. It just screams junky teenage romance. Which is exactly what it is. I don't think I'm going to keep My Life Next Door, as it's unlikely that I would reread it.

I was enjoying the book and then as I was reading, it struck me: what the heck is the point of all this? Samantha does things, and has doubts about her mom and her best friend, and it's really very dreamy, an idyll, even if Samantha does quarrel with her conservative, overprotective mom. But really, Samantha's problems are miniscule; she's beautiful, smart, and her mom is rich. But then the thing happened. Sam's mom is a state senator, and she's running for re-election. So when she accidently does something that would ruin her career, she conceals it, runs away. Even though it's life-threatening to many others. That seemed realistic, and it was actually a pretty good plot twist. I just kind of wished that it came earlier in the book or that some of the middle parts were cut out. There was a whole section when not a whole lot happened. And frankly, a thought that has recently come to me while reading fiction is what's the point in reading about someone else's romance if there's nothing thought-provoking in it? Any answers? I realize it's kind of entertaining, but at a certain point, you just realize that it's shallow and fairly uninteresting.

Still, despite my doubts, the romance is very good, and both Sam and Jase actually behave like responsible people.  And all the other people in the story seem real; Sam's mom and her new manager aren't evil per se; they're just way too focused on reelection at the expense of everything else that matters. Like morals. There were moments when Sam's mom seemed good; she's just struggling to do what's right (a cliche, I know).

I loved how all of the many kids in the Garrett family were developed; from the baby George all the way up to Joel and Alice, the two eldest siblings. They each have their own problems and fears which they're trying to surmount. Well, maybe George not so much, but still.

Anyway, this is a good summer read, though I wouldn't say that it's worth buying. It's smart, pretty well-written, and in some ways it attempts to be more than just a fluffy romance, with its depictions of the Garrett family's financial struggles, and Sam's own struggles with her friends and family. I would certainly recommend it for the summer or the winter for that matter, to cheer you up when it's cold and gloomy. Perhaps the summer is the time for reading dark books, since the weather is so nice. If you read dark books during the winter, you're liable to get depressed (at least where I live). Anyway, My Life Next Door was pretty good (I originally rated it 4 stars but switched my rating to 3 because of its shallowness).

394 pages.

Rating: ***

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