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!