Thursday, August 30, 2012
My Life Next Door
Dial Books, 2012
Source: Checked out of library
This book has received a lot of praise and, as a lover of contemporary, it always makes me happy to see non-contemporary fans fall for one. Of course, I had to check this book out for myself!
For years, Samantha Reed has watched the Garrett family, growing to contain eight children to the dismay of her single mother who laments their mess and noise. Still to Sam, it looks spectacular, the kind of life she'd prefer to her sterile spoiled life. One night to her surprise, while she's spying on the Garretts, she is greeted by the third-eldest child, Jase who brings her over and introduces her to a whole new kind of life as they begin a romance.
Parts of this plot strongly reminded me of Sarah Dessen's excellent The Truth About Forever. We have privileged daughter who tries to live up to her mother's expectations including the boring jobs that send out the right image while daughter ends up taking a fun job that opens her up in new ways. However suffice it to say that Jase is no Wes (sa-woon) as Jase doesn't seem to have any flaws (such as a bit of a temper which would have been totally justified at one point) and his "perfectness" is exactly what I dislike most about him. Still he is a good guy rather than the bad boy so I give him points for that.
However as the book progressed, some concerns niggled at me. First the Reeds are quite wealthy while the Garretts are not. Yet they live right next door to each other. How did the Garretts afford that house? Did they inherit it somehow? Have they really been able to keep up with the property tax? Why didn't Mrs. Reed move? This isn't normally something I'd pick at but the fact that they live next door to each other is the main plot contrivance so I feel like it's fair game.
Next why does Sam have a sister? Personally I loved Tracy and would have liked more of her but she spent most of the book away. On the one hand, she serves as an example of what standing up to their domineering mother looks like; but on the other hand, if she didn't exist, it would have made even more sense for then only child Sam to long for what the boisterous Garrett family has.
Third, I was very displeased with the resolution of Sam and Nan's ruptured friendship. Namely because there wasn't any. There were cruel words, hurt feelings, and then that was it. Their long-standing friendship was dissolved. I guess it's okay because now Sam has Jase and a boy can totally replace your best friend of 12 years-note the sarcasm. I started out the book really happy that Sam at least had one friend and was very disappointed with how this was handled.
Lastly was a sudden plot twist near the end involving Sam's mother. It came out of left field for me and just seemed to be used to add some drama to shake up the book. I understand a book needing that jolt but this particular choice didn't sit well with me. And related to that, I found the ending of the book way too ambiguous. Don't worry, romance fans-that part is stable but for everything else, I wanted to know more.
Warning: Extreme language (one character who didn't make it into this review swears a lot and it made me wince every time), drugs, and sexual content probably make this a better read for the older end of YA.
Overall: A strong start but too many loose threads left me dissatisfied by the end.
Cover: Very cute-love the bright summery yellow as this book takes place over the course of one summer.