14 September 2012

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

“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, featuring a Romeo and Juliet style romance with the shadow of a Sarah Dessen style plot, blasted off for me...but only for the first 250 pages or so. I was immediately hooked by a main character caught up in a world where she couldn't find a place to fit around her mom's political schedule, and became fascinated by the totally off limits next door neighbors. I loved the easy, lightly abstract writing style that molded a well realized world, and a fluffy romance that had all the earmarks of a great end-of-summer read.

So what happened? The main character, Samantha, happened. Robert McKee, author of Story, noted that an audience connects with a character, not when the character makes easy, everyday choices, but is forced to make a decision under extraordinary circumstances. And when the Extraordinary Circumstance came for Samantha, I was not impressed by the end result.

Samantha, as a main character, started out swimmingly for me. I was surprised by her witty, sarcastic comments when it put her in such contrast to how I imagined a senator's daughter to be. By the end of the book, however, she got really whiny. She lacked the guts, or mental clarity, to sit down and make a decision about a really big, life changing issue. Her spinelessness and lack of aggression after the climax really killed it for me. Also, I didn't feel like I was getting a lot of emotion from her. She seemed too one dimensional and easy to read instead of an in depth, realistic paradox. In contrast, the subcharacters were more dynamic. What had started out being a possible new addition to my bookshelf turned out to be a mere disappointment.

That was not for lack of command of plot on Huntley Fitzpatrick's part, though. The stakes -- and eventual crisis -- were well defined, but stained by the fact that Samantha was so passive aggressive it was painful. The rest of the story was very entertaining. I liked the progression through the first two hundred or so pages, and how Huntley Fitzpatrick deftly threaded multiple subplots together to make a realistic story. While in some places it was a bit rough around the edges, I think she's off to a great start in young adult contemporary literature.

The romance was a bit too much of the moon-eyed type for my taste, but first class for a fluffy read: starting entirely too fast so that the bulk of the story can be about the obstacles the two young lovers face in order to be together. Jase was a cool character, if a bit of a marshmallow. Didn't show a lot of development. He was entirely focused on either his family (cool), his car (also cool) or Samantha (maybe not so cool). I liked the dedication, but not the Edward Cullen-style, always glued at the hip way he had.

Despite my issues with this book, and the fact that I closed it feeling dissatisfied, I'm curious about what Huntley Fitzpatrick is going to do next.


"She wants me to pull some strings to get him a lifeguard job here. Apparently, the job at Hot Dog Haven didn't work out."

Right. Because if you have trouble putting ketchup and mustard on a hot dog, you should totally move on to saving lives. (p. 22)

Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 395
  • published - 2012
  • publisher - Dial
  • genre - contemporary
  • recieved via - library :)
  • rating - 3/5