My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, published by Electric Monkey on 8th January 2016
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?
I love contemporary YA but I don't often come across many books in this genre which tick every box. 'My Life Next Door' is one of those titles which has everything I look for and more. A great central character (okay, I may be slightly bias because we share the same name), a sweet romance with the boy next door which I thought was genuinely realistic and well written, the boy in question being gorgeous and kind (Jace, be mine!) and a punchy storyline with a good twist at the end.
What I particularly liked about this book was how brilliantly Huntley Fitzpatrick portrays the wonderful Garrett family. With seven children, the Garrett's home is messy and noisy and chaotic but there is a genuine sense of love and homeliness which Samantha lacks in her own house which is clean and well ordered. I couldn't fail to be enveloped into the Garrett's world. All the children are great but I have a soft spot for four year old George, who has some of the funniest lines in the book. He's such a sweetie.
The romance between Sam and Jace is at the heart of the book and wonderfully captures all the emotions and ups and downs of first love. It was perfectly balanced, depicting all of those lovely first moments and brilliantly portrayed. I loved them together and enjoyed the fact that for once, Jace was genuinely just such a good guy. He had no deep, dark secrets or bad boy streak, he was just sweet and funny and kind to his siblings.
There is an interesting twist near the end which took me by surprise and I originally I wasn't sure if it was in keeping with the rest of the plot. However, once I'd had time to think about it I thought that it worked well to show that even couples who get on well together, still have to overcome bumps in the road.
I would implore everyone to read 'My Life Next Door'. You won't be disappointed. I can't wait for 'What I Thought Was True' and 'The Boy Most Likely To' which are published by Electric Monkey and published in the UK later this year.