Like we did for a handful of other books Michelle(Galleysmith) and I also discussed My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. As you can tell we had vastly different star ratings but both enjoyed the book all the same.
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?
A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.
M: Ok, so I’m seriously never having that many kids! Can you imagine? Egads!! I mean, I adored how close they were and how they were so protective of their family, but I just can’t imagine how difficult it is to maintain those relationships. Seriously, Jase is the prime example — he’s the strong stable influence who is the caretaker (the surrogate father really) and doesn’t have much opportunity to be who he really wants to be. BUT, this also makes him so super appealing because he cares so deeply.
A: I think the fact that Jase was such a strong parental unit for all of those kids is what endeared me to him. Those kids needed structure and sadly he was the only one that was really able to provide it and that shouldn’t have been his job. He should have been getting into trouble with Samantha and not having to deal with his parents decisions. Just the thought of dealing with 8 kids made me feel physically ill! NO THANK YOU!
M: In that way I had to suspend a bit of reality. I just couldn’t see how two parents would actively continue to have that many kids when they knew they had to rely on one of them to take care of the others. I mean, big families are fantastic and I do think there is something to be said for teamwork but I kind of related to Samantha’s mom in the “this may not be the most responsible choice” department. Sure, she was a total judgemental bitch and went about it the wrong way but was she 100% wrong about the fact that maybe Jase’s parents bit off more than they could chew?
A: Oh, I agree 100% there! The one and only time I agreed with Samantha’s mom was with her thoughts on the Garrett’s, having all those kids. But man did that woman suck! As irresponsible as the Garrett’s were, they were WAY BETTER parents than Samantha’s mother. ARGH I hated that woman! Everything she did just got on my nerves. She was so overbearing and abrupt. And it was so obvious she hated children, hers included!
M: Ha, so true! She was definitely not built for kids.
I was pretty surprised at how easily she was convinced to cover-up the accident. I get that she had a political career and I also think it fit her personality, to an extent, but it felt way over the top and forced. That guy who was the campaign manager was a bit of a charicature of the evil foe. I might have found mom’s keeping the big bad a secret if he’d been a bit more appealing and manipulative than he was. All we saw was this guy who was a good double talker, I never quite latched on to what it was about it (outside of his political prowess) that appealed to the mother. Heck, I didn’t even see the reasoning that she was simply lonely. Had that element, or something to that effect, had been built in I think I would have been more understanding of mom’s desire to cover this big bad up. Not only that but virtually blackmail her daughter to keep it a secret as well.
A: That actually didn’t surprise me at all. Right from the start the mother was completely all about herself, appearances and her career. She wanted her children to be perfect so she would seem perfect. The vacuuming was a key part of that for me. Honestly I thought she was bi-polar at some points since she acted so manically with Samantha and so controlling. I’ve seen a parent like that through a friend of mine so I honestly wasn’t surprised at all. I was surprised by the Garretts’ reaction to the news. As much as I loved this book, and I did love it to pieces, I thought their reaction was very anti-climactic.
What did you think about that? And while we are on the anti-climactic portion of this ride, what did you think about the whole Nan thing? Personally I thought she sucked, but that’s just me.
M: So true, the Garrett’s reaction and ultimate acceptance was convenient. I can’t imagine many would be so easy going about something so devastating to their family. It was great for the romance between Jase and Samantha but that too seemed a bit unbelievable. What teen boy (no matter how swoon-worthy) is going to chase after a girl who kept such a secret? a secret that has such a huge impact on the lives of his family. It actually seemed a bit out of character for Jase to be all about Sam in that case as opposed to more concerned for his family, particularly given his role as primary care-taker.
As for Nan, I thought she was unnecessary. She didn’t hurt the story but I didn’t feel like she was all that essential. Particularly given the fact that there was plenty of conflict in the story (Sam’s relationship with her mom, the accident with Jase’s father, her secret romance, etc). If anything it would have been nice for her to have some support somewhere. Someone she could go to for support.
To that end what about Samantha’s sister? Thoughts on her role in the whole thing?
A: The sister was another character that I hated. She was so selfish and didn’t think of anyone but herself. She just took off for the summer and lived her life while leaving Samantha in a house with a blatantly crazy mother! I just didn’t think it was fair of her. I also didn’t get that she cared one iota about her sister. She basically was all about getting some from her boyfriend and the drama she could create in her head. She brushed off everything Samantha said and that bothered me.
But really all of this was secondary to me for the most part. Even the accident. I have to admit the reason I loved the book so much, the writing aside, was the romance. The way it unfolded seemed so completely real and innocent and exactly like a teenage first love story should go. I just ate every single part of Jase and Samantha up. From their first date, to their first kiss, to their first fight. Add in a friendship with Tim and I was hooked. What did you think about all of that?
M: I don’t know, I kind of got the sister a little bit. She’d already experienced the crazy and finally had her out. She didn’t give a crap about how people felt about her behavior anymore and was willing to get herself out of the situation. I suspect Samantha might have done some of the same given the opportunity. Having said that, I do think the sister could have removed herself from the situation and still been more supportive of Samantha’s predicaments. At the very least she could have been a sounding board or given advice on how she handled the crazy.
Ahhhh, yes the romance. That really was the best part of the book. I did find myself wondering how he was suddenly so interested in her, particularly given the fact that he’d known for some time that she’d been watching his family. However, that issue is easily overlooked because they were so sweet with each other. I was glad that there were some bumpy times too. If it were too sticky sweet that would have turned me off.
Oh, Tim! Timmy, Tim, Tim. He may well be one of my most favorite characters in the book. His relentless pursuit of Jase’s sister was such great comic relief from the drama. I’d actually be interested to see a companion book based on him. His character progression was definitely the deepest given his addictions and wrong-turns in life. I found myself looking forward to seeing how he was doing when he popped up. The fact that he ended up being a better friend to Samantha (and by extension becoming a good friend of Jase) than his sister was a great development in the story.
A: I loved the comedic timing of Tim! It added an extra element to the book that just made the whole story better. Bringing him into the fold and using his drug problem at different parts of the story was spot on. I loved the progression of this character and the message that it gave that not everything is so hopeless. All you need is someone to believe in you and give you a chance. You know?
M: I do! Overall, I thought the book had a message of hope. Samantha’s desire to be part of something larger than herself and to feel a sense of belonging was finally fulfilled with Jase and his family. She also learned that doing the right thing despite the consequences is always the best course of action.
*original post HERE