my life next door

Enjoyability:      smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp gray

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 394  Copyright: 2012

          Samantha Reed has always been the perfect daughter in her mother’s perfect life. In fact, the only thing marring her mom’s perfect life, serving as Connecticut’s senator and running for a second term, living in a pristine remodeled-and-remodeled-again house with vacuum lines in the  carpet every day, is the house next door– or rather, the family living there. The Garretts. A family with two parents and eight children, constant noise and mess, the landscaping never done and toys strewn all over the yard. Samantha’s mom would like nothing more than for them to move away.

          Incidentally, Samantha, watching them at night from the ledge outside her bedroom, would like nothing more than to join them. Then one night, Jase Garrett appears below her, and suddenly it seems like crossing the yard line may be possible. But even when the yards have been crossed, will the boundary between their worlds find its way between them?

         I thought this book was great. The characters were very vivid and believable. Samantha’s mother was so neurotic and judgmental that I debated whether or not she was believable, but sadly I do think people like her are common enough. Left by Samantha’s father when Samantha and her sister were very young, she resents the way single motherhood has monopolized her life, and is throwing herself into politics as a way to regain the identity she feels she’s lost. Each of the Garretts were individually well-developed, which is impressive considering there were ten of them. Samantha was also well-rounded. I think a lot of YA contemporary-lit female protagonists become formulaic: the sort of insert-yourself-here everywoman that Bella Swan is so often accused of being, supposedly awkward and hinting at geekiness without any concrete geekable interests or noteworthy quirks. Samantha wasn’t like that. She read as a person, not a character; she wasn’t aggressively unique in any big way, but she was unique in the way that all real humans are unique. Responsible and good at swimming, not a romantic pro but has dated before, struggles to stand up to people— just a teenage girl.

            Jase and Samantha had good, organic chemistry. They were very cute! Jase receives very high marks in the swoon department. A+ Would Date. Was he too perfect? He probably should have had a big mess-up at some point in the story; he never really does anything wrong or even gets mad about anything. Still, I liked him.

            Another bonus was Clay, Samantha’s mom’s sleazy boyfriend and campaign manager. Clay was a very well-done villain. He’s realistic because he doesn’t go around cackling and making speeches about his evil plans; like so many real-life creeps, he’s very charming, and it takes everyone– including the reader, maybe– a long time to slowly see him for what he is.

            I really liked Jase’s sister Alice. As a bookish girl, I always admire assertive, level-headed female characters like Alice, who is training to be a nurse and takes control of a situation as soon as she enters it. I noticed that Alice and Samantha’s older sister Tracy were similar in a lot of ways, both famous for going through boyfriends quickly and with the same sort of in-power attitude. Is that a bad thing, making them redundant? I’m not sure. Let me know if you have thoughts. But I definitely think those two could be good friends if not arch enemies.

            And I loved all the scenes with Samantha and the Garretts. Jase’s little siblings were so fun. I also liked the storyline of Tim, Samantha’s best friend Nan’s twin brother who Samantha used to be very close with, but who has gone down a bad path of drug addiction and slackerdom.

            Another thing I noticed, which I rarely do, is that the book could have used a little more scene-building. I struggled a bit to understand where everything was, how things were arranged and how people were moving through the spaces. Just a few more sentences of description here and there would have been helpful.

            I can’t help but comment on how beautiful the physical book is. I think the cover is utterly gorgeous, the sky-blue and yellow color scheme is totally adorable, and the spine of the book is ridiculously cute too. I want to redecorate my life based on this dust jacket. Fetch my life-design team and alert them to the new plan. Plus, the models on the cover are perfect for Jase and Samantha, which is really something considering how often people get that wrong. I LOVE IT.

            My Life Next Door was the best of everything—a romance, but also a meaningful story, well-written and engaging of the mind in a light-hearted way. In the climactic section, things get unexpectedly pretty dramatic and messed up, so be prepared for that; but it just added to the impact of the book. I really enjoyed every chapter of this story and didn’t want to put it down. There were a lot of storylines which were kind of left hanging at the end, for which I would have liked more resolution. But if you’re looking for a fix of contemporary romance with a punch of brains behind it, this is the book for you.        

Special Awards:

sqee  Squee! Good romance.