So Close to You by Rachel Carter

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading So Close to You by Rachel Carter. It was the first ARC by a debut author that Harper Teen sent me in the mail. I’ve received three others from Harper, but because they weren’t debuts, I didn’t want to review them here, so I started a separate blog for those (www.datingliterature.wordpress.com). Anyways, this was my first debut ARC, so I really wanted to do it justice. An easy task considering how awesome the book turned out to be.

The ARC cover

Set in the tiny town of Montauk, New York, Lydia Bentley, an aspiring truth-seeking journalist, has heard conspiracy theories about the mysterious Montauk Project since birth. Stories that her grandfather forcefully believed, stories that she refused to accept as truth. Her grandfather grew up without a father, who suddenly disappeared with no explanation when Montauk was used as a military base during World War II. He always believed that his father’s disappearance had everything to do with the Montauk Project. But he never had physical proof, only a tattered old journal his father left him containing cloudy clues but no answers. Lydia’s grandfather let the quest for truth consume his entire life, dragging Lydia, the only person left who tolerated his crazy theories, to the old base whenever he got the chance. Lydia never believed what her grandfather believed, but she wanted him to find peace and truth. One day, she finds herself in the underground chambers of the old military base, the place that everyone who believed suspected to be the home of the Montauk Project. She goes looking for answers and winds up in a dark room with a shadowy stranger and she picks up the quest for answers where her grandfather left off.

The back cover of my copy says, “The compelling romance of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE meets the imaginative suspense of BEFORE I FALL“. Now, I have never read Before I Fall or The Time Traveler’s Wife BUT I can assure you that Carter’s story had plenty of “compelling romance” and it certainly had some “imaginative suspense”. Lydia has to fight her way through a completely new and, actually, old world surrounded by strangers who aren’t that far from who she is. I’m going to try to describe this book and what it meant for me without giving away any spoilers because I really don’t like that. That might make what I am trying to say confusing, so bear with me. For me, this book was about the dedication to one’s family and the importance of knowing all the facts and getting to the truth of the matter, something that is rarely easy to do. It was also about falling in love against seemingly impossible factors.

The current cover

Lydia wants “to be a journalist because it forces you to face the truth, even if it might not always be pretty.” Truth is a big deal to her, as it is to me. I am currently going to school to study journalism because I like to write and I like to read and I like people but also because I think understanding truth and reality is crucial to being really alive. And that’s what journalists do. And that’s what Lydia does. She searches and searches and searches to find the truth because it is important to her and to the people she loves. She does this because she believes that “the truth is worth knowing no matter what”, which is an idea that I share with her.

So she’s searching for answers and trying to unlock the mystery behind her grandfather’s grief and along the way she meets a tall, dark and handsome, which is just the way with Young Adult fiction. I mean, really, why else do you think I read YA? But honestly, Lydia’s romance with this tall, dark and handsome was the most honest, and truly different YA love story that I’ve ever read, next to John Green and a couple others. It was refreshing and exciting and mysterious as they tried to break down the barriers between them, both successfully and unsuccessfully, discovering that some barriers aren’t meant to be broken. So even though this is a fantasy-mystery book, aspects of Lydia’s romance ring true in real life. Road blocks exist in every relationship, but it’s up to the people in them to dissemble those road blocks or to move on. I really liked reading how her love story developed and dealt with hard stuff like that.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book to readers who love YA, science-fiction-y mystery love stories with EXCRUCIATING CLIFFHANGERS (I’m looking at you, Carter). It was an awesome story that I will probably read again. Oh and did I mention that it’s the first in a series? Yeah, you can bet that Rachel Carter has earned herself one more avid reader.

ALSO: If you are really interested, here are pictures, straight from Rachel Carter’s website, of the real-life Camp Hero (the military base in the book). In case I didn’t mention it before, this story uses rea-life WWII rumors about Camp Hero. So cool! http://rachel-carter.com/camp-hero-

Rating: 9 out of 10. Really fun read!

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door is the awesome new book written by first-time author Huntley Fitzpatrick. I heard about this novel in May and knew that when it came out, I needed to review it. I was checking out Fitzpatrick’s website (which I strongly encourage everyone to do http://www.huntleyfitzpatrick.com/) and read about who she is and her story. I was so drawn to this author and thrilled for her book that I took a chance and sent her an e-mail. Within 15 minutes, there was a response in my inbox. She told me about her book and her family and a bunch of other cool stuff. It turns out that I share my name with her best friend and one of her daughters, which I thought was a fun coincidence. Anyways, our little exchange only made me want to read her book more. I think that Fitzpatrick taking the time to talk to me really says something. So, at that point, I sort of already knew I would love her book, I just didn’t know how much.

My Life Next Door takes place in a small sea town in Connecticut (where I have decided I will live when I’m older, only because of how great it sounds in the book) where Samantha Reed lives with her mom and older sister. From the outside, she has a pretty good life, minus the absent father figure. Her mom was gifted with a trust fund and a need to turn up her nose, especially at the less prim, more exuberant next-door neighbors, the Garretts.

From the roof outside her bedroom window, Samantha had always watched the Garretts. They offered a totally different way of living, where wealth isn’t measured in money but in love. Samantha escaped from her house and her mother by watching them, and they gave her hope and a new view of perfection. For her mom, perfection means everything has to be in its place and accurately planned and the carpet lines must be straight and impeccable. For the Garretts, perfection means that every member of the family is happy, loving, kind and good. To them, money, organization and structure only went so far. Love and compromise are what makes a family perfect.

Samantha’s mother dreaded the Garretts ever since they moved in, simply because their messiness and unorganized lives would lower the cost value of the real estate. Their messiness would only harm the neighborhood and standard of living. But Samantha quietly disagreed. She always thought the Garretts would just be a spectacle for her, until one day when she met Jase Garrett and her whole life changed. I’m not being cliche. It really did.

Samantha’s relationship with Jase expands her world in so many ways. He shows her a different kind of life, where silliness and laughter take precedent. She is welcomed by the Garretts and treated like a member of the family. She sees the value of a family that operates based on love and it sort of changes how she views her own family dynamic. What used to be important to her isn’t anymore and she gets to know who she’s supposed to be by knowing and loving the Garretts.

Samantha’s “life next door” becomes her anchor and as she grows with them, she learns a better way to live. She takes a risk and falls in love and it’s exciting for her. Jase and Samantha’s relationship is a typical teenage romance and then some. It has all the excitement and anxiety of a first love while also offering the warmth and comfort of a loving family. I didn’t really realize the emphasis that this book places on family until right now as I’m writing about it, but it’s there. Fitzpatrick also portrays the fickleness of friendship and how people, if you’re not paying attention, can totally change without you even noticing.

Faced with the summer of their lives and an unbelievable tragedy, Samantha and Jase learn how to cope, how to love and how to forgive.

Sometimes I think I am a little bit crazy for believing in books so much. And sometimes I get so emotionally involved with them that I have to take a step back and remind myself that it’s just a book. But it isn’t really. It’s a story and it’s unique to you because you read it in your own way. The way I read a book will reflect who I am and  it will help me discover more about myself and what I value. So yeah, books aren’t technically “real”, but they kind of are. What I’m trying to say is that this story told me all about the Reeds and the Garretts and Connecticut, but more importantly it helped me see myself a bit clearer. That’s kind of a dramatic way to put it, but you know what I mean. That’s what I like to get from books. For me, that’s what makes a book good.

I’m not sure if any of what I just wrote makes sense. Actually I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. Just go read the book. It’s awesome and challenging and it will stay with you. So please go read it, if anything, go read it for the author, who is just great.

Rating: 10 out of 10! This book is just fantastic, you must go read it!