Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Life Next Door

I'm not as enamored with My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick as many others are. I was especially frustrated by this as I really enjoyed the beginning.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
“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, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

My Life Next Door has the same formula that Sarah Dessen is famous for writing. A smart girl with a carefully ordered life and a controlling mother falls for boy with more a messy life and a singular talent, who draws her into a new life and the real world, then something happens that forces her to decide to embrace said new life or settle into the false security of her old one. While I have enjoyed some of Dessen's books this isn't a formula I particularly want to read over and over again, so this was probably not a good book pick for me in the first place. And Huntley Fitzpatrick is not Sarah Dessen. This is her debut novel and so there is plenty of room for growth and much potential. The writing here is good. Good imagery, wonderful descriptions, excellent dialogue. Still, the characters and story left me cold.

Jase is pretty much perfect, and that was rather annoying. I like good guys as romantic heroes, don't get me wrong. I like that Fitzpatrick went that route rather than the oh so popular YA jerk-bad-boy-rebel-without-a-cause route. However, while good-guys are always preferable to jerks, no one is perfect. Except Jase. Who is ridiculously good looking, athletic, smart, sensitive, a great kisser, an excellent mechanic, good with small children and animals, capable of making delinquent drug addicts want a better a life, and mature when it comes to discussing and planning for sex. He's seventeen. And he never messes up. Not once. Everyone has flaws and a character that doesn't have any is not well-rounded enough for me to be able to believe in. Samantha does make some missteps and Jase is always perfectly forgiving and understanding when she does. Samantha as a character is a bit more well rounded, but she too is inclined toward the perfect. Beautiful, smart, athletic, good with children, quick thinking in a crisis. So that leaves the secondary characters to be the ones who mess up. And our super perfect heroes get to help fix them.

I had some difficulties with the plot too. Most of  the book is  about these two perfectly compatible almost perfect people falling in love. Their dialogue is excellent and the interactions with Jase's family are wonderful. There is some tension and conflict with Samantha's mother and her new political adviser/boyfriend causing Samantha to be uncomfortable, Samantha's best friend who is acting like a jealous shrew, and Samantha's best friend's druggie twin. Lots going on and then something of the high drama variety happens toward the end that seemed contrived only to bring in conflict of the soap opera kind. 

In the end this just wasn't the right book for me. I prefer more realism in my realistic fiction. 

Note on Content for Concerned Parents: Samantha and Jase handle their sexual attraction and desire for each other in a mature and perfectly sex-ed textbook manner but they are having sex and some of their physical interaction is described. There is also some strong language used.

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