Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary > Romance
Synopsis: 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?
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My Life Next Door has the potential to be everything a good contemporary novel should be. It is sweet, the romance is just right, and it focuses on other important things rather than just the boy-girl dynamic most contemporary novels tend to focus on. It’s a good summer read. It’s very light, and it’s entertaining. But other than that, it didn’t do much for me.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about this that my expectations were way too high. Expectations play a huge role in whether you like or dislike a book. Don’t get me wrong- this book wasn’t bad at all. But, is it the best contemporary ever? Mm, no, not for me. I had some issues with this that had mainly to do with the chaos ensuing because of the amount of characters it had jammed into it, and on top of that, most of the characters were flat. Didn’t work for me.
There were certain things I really loved about this novel. For one, in most teenage romance novels, there’s a lot of angst and pining. When the two characters finally get together, it’s right at the end and you have no idea what they’re like as a couple. Did they work? Did they have problems? Did they have any regrets? What happened? It’s all left to your imagination, and even though there’s a certain kind of intrigue to that plot, sometimes, you’re left wanting more. What I really liked about this book was that our two characters get together in the first quarter of the book, and all the questions I mentioned before are actually answered. Yes, they do have problems, and it was a delight to read their ups and downs, their actual relationship.
Having said that, I had some issues with the romance. I thought everything came to them a little too easily. Their issues – which are very serious, very real issues by the way – are resolved way too quickly. They take problems too lightly, and it started feeling a little unrealistic to me.
Another thing I really loved about this book is that even though it’s primarily a romance contemporary, it focuses on a lot of other things. A person in a new relationship is, to some extent, engrossed in their new love. But, a lot of books tend to forget that there’s a complete world outside of the said relationship. In this book, we seem Samantha struggling with her family, her friends, her life in general. There were several subplots in the novel that were all entertaining in their own. So instead of getting sick of the romance or the family drama, I found myself enjoying every aspect because it was brilliantly balanced.
I, personally, dislike it when a book has too many characters or too much dialogue. It’s just something I don’t particularly enjoy. This book had a ton of characters, minor or major. There were a lot of them, since Jace has around seven siblings and they each get time in the novel. On top of that, there’s Sam’s sister and mother, her mother’s boyfriend, her friend, her friend’s brother, as well as Jace’s siblings and parents. It felt a little too cluttered for my liking, and it took me some time to get through the novel because of how many characters there were. I found myself trying harder than I should to keep track with everyone.
A lot of the characters were, thus, one-dimensional. Even though you get a feel of who they are, you don’t see them outside of the immediate situation, so they just start feeling like props or fillers. Some of the characters weren’t needed because they did absolutely nothing to advance the plot. I did like a few characters- I enjoyed Jace’s characterization. I liked him more outside of his relationship than when he was with Sam, but I still enjoyed his character. I particularly liked Tim; I thought he was a very dynamic character, and he was possibly the only one who had any character development. I liked Sam’s mom’s boyfriend’s character quite a lot. I thought he was fascinating and a great antagonist.
Sam’s character bothered me. I was just annoyed by her. I found myself shouting at the book (no kidding) “Girl, woman up.” She did woman up by the end, but not nearly as much as she should have.
This is where my problem with too much dialogue comes in. I don’t like too much dialogue, because I don’t get a sense of the author’s writing style. This might sound crazy to you, because yes, the dialogue is written by the author too. But I tend to judge how a person writes by their descriptions, by how the characters move and their glances, how much a story is told by showing rather than telling. Of course, the dialogue is an integral part in any story, because it helps build a character and also, set a tone for the novel. But too much dialogue tends to undermine other things in a story. At least, that’s what I think.
Huntley Fitzpatrick is nowhere near a bad writer. This book was a fun read, and it was very entertaining. It was a very summery read, and perhaps that also had something to do with why I didn’t like it too much. But, I liked it enough to give Fitzpatrick’s writing another chance. I’ll be picking up her other book… in the summer, that is.
Would I recommend? No, I find there are a lot of contemporaries out there better than this one.
Would I re-read? No.