Rachel Piper's Reviews > My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
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Jun 25, 12

bookshelves: own-ebook, contemporary-teen, own, best-read-in-2012, summer
Read on June 25, 2012

This is, bar none, the best YA contemporary title I've read in ages. It's not a romance, it's not a coming-of-age, it's not a family drama or an issues book -- it manages to be all of those things, all rolled up into one book, one summer. And Huntley Fitzpatrick has made it seem effortless, which is a real trick that I truly thought only Sarah Dessen had a handle on.

Samantha is the perfect daughter, the perfect employee, the perfect friend. But with her mother wrapped up in her Sen=ate re-election campaign and shady new boyfriend/campaign manager, and her best friend likewise occupied with her boyfriend and her drive to do everything she can to get into the best colleges even though it's only the summer before their senior year, Samantha is feeling like her life isn't quite so charmed as it looks from the outside. Then, one night, she has a (sort of) chance encounter with Jase, the boy next door -- from the family her high-brow mother has always looked down her nose at, due to their large numbers and rambunctious ways. Samantha's never talked to any of them, but before long, she's caught up in the world of this family, baby-sitting the younger kids and, of course, falling for Jase. Everything seems perfect, until her mother's cutthroat political ambitions intersect in an unexpected, damaging way with this family that Samantha has learned to love.

If you love Sarah Dessen, you'll love this book. I bought it as an ebook after skimming through some bits at the bookstore, then started reading on the train to work. Halfway through my train ride home, I knew I had to run out and buy a physical copy to finish reading in one greedy sitting and to have on my shelves. I felt giddy, the same way I felt as a teenager when I brought the new Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever, home from the bookstore and devoured it, relating at an almost uncomfortable level with this character and her struggles to live up to the pressures placed upon her by her family and herself, and simultaneously swooning over the dreamy boy who comes into her life not to fix it, but to become part of it.

One important thing to note is how deftly the author brings all of her characters alive. It's quite a large cast of characters that moves in and out of the pages, but even each kid in the large family -- and I usually despise reading about adorable moppets -- has a unique, yet believable personality, way of speaking, etc., that never lets them blend, indistinguishable, into the background. Jase is definitely someone you'd fall in love with, but he has his flaws, too. Samantha's a beautiful mix of conflicting loyalties and emotions, with a great deal of humor and common sense to even it all out. Tim, the drugged-out twin brother of Samantha's best friend, Nan, is the dark horse of the story -- think Tim Riggins. Nan herself is full of surprises, and I loved how quietly the story of their friendship is told, through nicknames that are spoken without explanation, through small gestures, and even through the small jealousies and digs present even in the most solid of friendships. Jase's parents reminded me of the Finneys in Walk Two Moons and Absolutely Normal Chaos, loving but scattered. And Samantha's mom is a portrait of self-absorption spiraling out of control, but she never spins into overwrought Disney Villainous territory -- for all her faults, she's truly, painfully human.

I can't wait to re-read this book, and I can't wait for more from Huntley Fitzpatrick.
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Reading Progress

06/25/2012 page 66
17.0% "Really, really liking this so far -- hope I'm not jinxing the book by saying this."

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Angie Happy you loved this one!


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