Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Length: 394 pages 
Original Publishing Date: June 14th, 2012
Series: My Life Next Door #1
Where I got it: Bought from Barnes & Noble
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
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.

Main characters: 4.5/5

Wow, these two main characters were pretty magical together

Samantha is reserved, put-together, and "perfect" at the beginning of the novel. Luckily, she meets Jase pretty quickly, but her change is gradual and realistic. She still retains these qualities even as she opens up to the Garrett family. Everything about Samantha felt real. Her emotions, her conflicting feelings, and her loyalties all served to make me understand and connect with Samantha. Even though Fitzpatrick didn't delve deeply into Samantha's hopes and dreams for the future as much as I would have preferred, I still felt this deep connection to her. I understood that swimming was her escape, and that she loved looking at the stars. These little things all made me fall in love with her. 

And Jase... *swoon*. I'm not normally big into "book boyfriends" (I know, you can throw tomatoes at me now), but I adored Jase. He was sweet, down-to-earth, and loyal to his friends and family. I loved watching him interact with his siblings and put in long hours at the hardware store to support his family. My one negative with him? He was almost too perfect. Where was his growth? Why is he so understanding and nice all the time? These are serious questions!

And the two of them together? So cute! I loved that they had a couple small bumps along the way (and one big one, obviously). The little conflicts were realistic and the way they grew because of them set each up perfectly for the big drama. I honestly don't know what more I would have asked for from these two.

Secondary characters: 4/5

I LOVED the Garretts: their loud, crazy, messy life with eight children, who each had their own endearing qualities. Especially George... how perfect is he? They are the perfect contrast to the Reed's and I love how the interactions with each others' families make Jase and Samantha grow.

Tim and Nan, the twins. I'm kind of on the fence here. I think it's interesting how they are twins and how Nan is Samantha's best friends because they follow an opposite arc. Tim really intrigued me in his search for bettering himself and even though he was frustrating at the beginning, I think he ended up being such a key character for Samantha to confess to. Nan, on the other hand, was something else. She started out so interesting and then sort of plummeted. I wanted some sort of resolution to their friendship.

Samantha's mom, Grace. What can I say about her? It was interesting to see her interactions with Samantha. Difficult as it was to feel any sympathy for her, I think Fitzpatrick did a great job of leading us through the incident and trying to get into Samantha's mind.

I wish Jase had had a best friend! We never get to see any of his friends, only his family, and I got to wondering if he had any friends or if he just hung out with his fam the entire time. Sort of a missing character there, I thought.

Writing style: 4/5

I really liked Fitzpatrick's writing style. It was simple, elegant and yet down-to-earth. She didn't try to make her language super flowery, yet there were some beautiful passages nonetheless. The pacing, for the most part, was good. The book was long but it moved fairly quickly. As enjoyable a read it was, I felt that some of the middle sections could have been shortened to reach the main conflict. The dialogue was realistic and meaningful.

My only other critique would be that sometimes the scenes would end quickly at the bottom of one page and a new one would start up on the next. I would be jolted out of one scene and be a little lost before I realized I was in a new one.

Plot: 4.5/5 
The thing about contemporary romances is that not a lot happens. That's just the nature of these types of books. Two people fall in love and deal with conflicts and drama. That being said, when I rate, I try to compare contemporary books to themselves, rather than to thrillers.  

My Life Next Door had a lot going for it. It's conflicts were incredibly realistic, and even when they weren't (that sounds like I contradicted myself, but it makes sense in my head), the emotions and thoughts that went with it were. Fitzpatrick sets up a lot of minor conflicts and plot points that are blended together beautifully.

Ending: 3/5

I kind of struggled with the ending. In a lot of ways, it's realistic and what needed to be concluded was taken care of. In a lot of other ways though, there were some unresolved issues that I think needed to be dealt with. Even if it was just to say that the problems would stay unresolved, I wish that Fitzpatrick had addressed them even briefly.

Best scene: Any scene with George. What a cutie!

Reminded Me Of: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Positives: Samantha's realistic growth and development, writing style, realistic plot and conflicts, realistic and unforgettable secondary characters, all the feels

Negatives: Jase's perfection and lack of growth, lack of resolution for some major plot points, some long, slower parts in the middle, weird scene changes

Cover: Yeah, I love it. I like the font, I like the background (can that be my backyard?), I like the couple... I like everything.

Verdict:  The perfect summer read, My Life Next Door, is not just your shallow YA romance. 

Rating:  8.0 / 10 (5 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

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