Book Review: My Life Next Door – Huntley Fitzpatrick

Book-Review-My-Life-Next-Door-Huntley-Fitzpatrick

Title: My Life Next Door (2012)
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 394 pages
Release Date: June 14, 2012
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

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?

Review

Wow. Wow. I went in expecting fluffy and cute, and while there were definitely some fluffy and cute, I found My Life Next Door to be quite a bit heavier than the cover and title make it seem. It has all the elements of a light-hearted contemporary: Perfect Rich Girl meets Boy Next Door and embarks on a beautiful Forbidden Summer Romance, but Family Drama ensues, breaking them apart, but the characters in this book also deal with alcoholism, family and friendships, people’s perception and judgments, and even the moral distinction between right and wrong. ❤

The first thing I look at in contemporary fiction is the protagonist, and My Life Next Door doesn’t disappoint at all. At first glance, Sam might seem just like any uptight, never-done-anything-wrong YA protagonist, but I found a surprising depth to her that I really enjoyed. She was easily my favourite character from the whole book, and seeing her develop over time was just immeasurably satisfying.

“It has nothing to do with how things look from far away and everything to do with how they are up close.  That won’t change.”

Jase, the literal boy-next-door love interest, was also really likeable. He was kind, charming, respectful, responsible and very brotherly, an all-around good guy — a nice change from all the bad boys I’ve been reading about in contemporary YA. I absolutely loved seeing his relationship with Sam grow and how he was so attentive to her wants and needs.

There’s definitely an element of forbidden romance here, with Sam’s mum really disliking Jase’s family and literally forbidding them from seeing each other, but their relationship was one of the healthiest fictional teenage relationships I’ve ever seen. Jase was utterly respectful and never once pushed Sam to do anything she didn’t want to and wasn’t ready for, and Sam was just completely understanding and fully encouraged Jase to pursue what makes him happy.

It’s rare for me to like a couple more after they got together, but I really did with Sam and Jase — I loved their couple interactions more than the flirty, will-they-won’t-they banter (although I enjoyed that too). This is easily one of my favourite things about My Life Next Door: it portrays a healthy and balanced teenaged relationship that still feels, you know, teenaged. There’s drama but for once, the characters actually communicate, which then helps solve the problem. It’s magic!

“You have to kiss me,” I find myself saying.
“Yeah.” He leans closer. “I do.”

As a side note, it’s probably the first time I read a contemporary YA novel in which the main male love interest is [spoiler] a virgin. Maybe I’ve just been reading certain types of books, but they tend to be written as really experienced and 100% able to give the female protagonist a good time, which does not reflect real life at all. [/end spoiler] I found Jase’s struggle with this and his want to ensure that Sam is happy really realistic and refreshing, so more props to Fitzpatrick for that. Yay to healthy relationships!

Second side note here: I did not like Sam’s mum at all, but I appreciate that she was in the story, because people like her are everywhere in the world, and chances are, some of them are actually parents. These people care so much about how they’re perceived by others that they, in turn, also judge by what they can see. These people are selfish, incredibly so, and willing to step on others if it takes them where they want to be. And guess what lessons they try to teach their kids? The same ones.

“The right thing to do is so easy to see when you’re seventeen years old and don’t have to make any big decisions. When you know that no matter what you do, someone will take care of you and fix everything. But when you’re grown up, the world is not that black and white, and the right thing doesn’t a tidy little arrow pointing to it.”

This book made me feel, mostly due to the fact that I really cared about Sam and her story. There were certain moments in the book where I really feared for her, not in that life-or-death kind of way but in that ‘oh no how will things ever be okay again???’ kind of way. There were also certain moments, other moments, where I really cheered for her and was very proud of who she’s become. She was strong and brave and did the right thing multiple times even when the right thing wasn’t easy. It’s natural to root for a protagonist that’s so likeable, and Sam is certainly that.

Character-driven and utterly engaging from start to finish, My Life Next Door is equipped with a protagonist you can’t help but to root for, a crush-worthy, actually good love interest, and realistic, non-teen drama that tugs at the heartstrings. Don’t dismiss it as a light-hearted contemporary romance the way I did when I first saw the cover — I’m certainly kicking myself for it now! 🙂

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51 thoughts on “Book Review: My Life Next Door – Huntley Fitzpatrick

  1. I just started this last night !! I’m two chapters in and Sam’s mom is already on my nerves. Seems like I’ll enjoy this book 🙂

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  2. Really great review! Everyone seems to love this book and this book has been on my virtual book basket for such a long time! Glad to here that this isn’t just a fluffy contemporary even though it’s a fluffy contemporary. I can’t wait to read it!

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  3. Lovely review, as always! Somehow about 95% of everything I read is contemporary, but I still haven’t read anything by Huntley Fitzpatrick? I will definitely be checking this out the next time I go to the library. 😉

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    • Thanks so much! I haven’t really heard much about Fitzpatrick either, but I feel that’s because her books mostly work as stand-alones – a bit harder to generate buzz and anticipation that way. I hope you find this book and get to read it soon! Thanks for the comment. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely agree! It’s great seeing a healthy relationship out in YA – we need more of those. The whole story just felt so realistic and relatable. Glad you enjoyed this as much as I did! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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    • Thanks, Zoe! Yeah, the healthy relationship is such a big plus – too many books do relationships that are presented as healthy but are in truth problematic, and that’s an issue in itself. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it, and thanks for the comment! 🙂

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  5. “[…] their relationship was one of the healthiest fictional teenage relationships I’ve ever seen.”

    As soon as I read that, I went to Goodreads and added it to my TBR. I’m not a big fan of contemporary YA, but I’m (like literally every other YA reader) starved for healthy fictional teenage relationships.

    Thanks for posting such a great review! I would’ve passed this book up, otherwise. =)

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  6. I love that My Life Next Door is a contemporary with a twist! I wasn’t expecting it either when I read it, but I think it made the story that much better. I really do love it and agree that Jase and Sam are even cuter when they are together.
    Are you going to read The Boy Most Likely To as well? I yearned to have more time with the Garretts, but it is not exactly on the same level as My Life Next Door to be honest. It is very different, which isn’t all that bad I guess.

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  7. Jenna sent me this book for my birthday last year and I still need to read it. So glad to hear that you enjoyed it- and thanks for the warning that it’s a bit emotionally heavier than the cover would suggest.
    I usually have issues keeping interested when the couple gets together, so I am glad to glad that this book keeps the momentum going here. Fantastic review 🙂

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    • The cover does seem a lot more light-hearted and romancey than it is! I mean, it’s certainly those things as well but there are other issues as well, which I think made the book a bit more well-rounded. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have if/when you get to it. 🙂

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  8. “… embarks on a beautiful Forbidden Summer Romance, but Family Drama ensues, breaking them apart, but the characters in this book also deal with alcoholism, family and friendships, people’s perception and judgments, and even the moral distinction between right and wrong.”

    HEYYY this speaks to me on a spiritual level?? This sounds like a delightful book, and I love a YA contemporary that also weighs in on heavier, serious topics. Also, a virgin male love interest? And there’s an emotional struggle?? I’m sold. Male narratives on virginity/sexuality are SO SO SO SO rare, and, idk I’d just love to read something like that?

    This book sounds gorgeous. Thank you for the review Reg, and for bringing this book to my attention!! 😍

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    • I’m glad to hear that it speaks to you and I hope the actual book does as well!

      And yes, there’s a lack of male virgins in YA/romance I feel – they’re all usually super experienced and able to satisfy their partners without breaking a sweat. I found that to be a harmful notion for both men and women, tbh, so I’m glad that this book attempts to break that flow. 🤗

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      • You’re so right; the notion of men being super sexually experienced beings by default is harmful, and I think Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn almost touches on that too.

        DEFS READING THIS. And now to get a hold of it somehow. Thanks again, Reg! c:

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        • Firsts definitely does, although I think that book also poses other problematic things that didn’t get called out by the story (i.e. the whole cheating angle, the protagonist’s views on sex and sexuality, etc.). Maybe one day we’ll get to see a book with a healthy, realistic, multi-faceted perspective on all these things, hopefully sooner rather than later. 🙂

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          • Ooooh hmmmm, I think that’s an interesting point. I look forward to writing my review for this, because I might do a character study of Mercedes. I thought she was so complex, even if she was very problematic.

            Yes, absolutely! Fingers crossed. c: I’m certain such a book will present itself one day!

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  9. Lovely review, Reg! I really like this book. It is such a great contemporary romance. So fluffy and funny. i agree with you on the things you’ve mentioned. I simply adore Jase (we need more good boys on YA) and his family. The ending was a little rushed to me, but I still enjoyed it. 🙂

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  10. YAY. I am so, so, so happy you enjoy this book and I completely agree with everything you’ve said about it. I was also surprised at how much depth the book had and I was not expecting to be bombarded by all the feels. Jase and Sam’s relationship was probably my favourite part of the book and I love how they communicated with one another. Also Jase was a breath of fresh air and we definitely need more good guys in literature.
    One thing I appreciate about Fitzpatrick’s writing is the way she explores character dynamics. From Sam and her mum. to Sam and the Garretts and even the friendships between Sam and Nan/Tim.
    Again I am so glad you enjoyed this book and I think this book is an example of why you should not judge a book by its cover haha.

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    • YAY, I’m happy you enjoyed it too! I was honestly expecting cute and fluffy but the conflict was in fact quite full-on. Jase was definitely new and I hope we’re gonna see more love interests like him in the future (and those who get the girl and not end up as the ‘second male lead’, so to speak).

      And you are right about the dynamics – I particularly found the relationship between Sam and her mum really interesting, just because of all the drama that causes. :p

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love everything about this review! Thank you for writing about this so eloquently. I totally get your misconceptions about the book. When I saw the cover I had exactly the same thoughts – fluffy romance. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I love a fluffy romance as much as the next person.

    You’re totally right about the whole male virgin thing. That is rare. The only other example I can think of is The Fault In Our Stars and Augustus’ venn diagram of boys who only have one leg and virgins. I wonder if that is a female gaze thing. Most of these books are intended for teenage girls and I suppose they want to think of their first time as this earth shattering experience rather than the reality of the thing. I don’t think that’s entirely healthy though. It’s the same as virgins and porn: they end up going into the thing with entirely wrong expectations. I really like that someone is telling the story of the first time people a bit scary/funny/awkward for both people involved. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Isla and The Happily Ever After but the sex in that really left me thinking… really? Seventeen year olds are having sex like this? Hmm… Haha.

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    • Thanks for being so kind, Lydia! Male virgins are definitely rare and I feel like that has to do with society’s focus on virginity – ‘losing’ it is supposed to be one big, special moment that you’re gonna remember for the rest of your life… although personally I also take issue with how it’s framed as ‘losing something’; I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.

      I’ve never read Isla but I feel like I outgrew Stephanie Perkins a bit – I used to love Anna and the French Kiss when I was younger but now that I’m older I can see so many problems with it tbh. :/ What was the sex like in Isla?

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      • They just seem much more experienced than their histories suggest they would be, haha. It’s enjoyable to read, I guess, but the whole time I was just thinking that most teenagers aren’t really doing this yet.

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        • Yeah, I totally understand – I feel like that with a lot of YA high school characters in particular. Sometimes they feel more mentally mature than their stated age and are obviously written by someone with a lot more experience, if that makes sense.

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