Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication date: June 14th 2012My rating: 4 stars
For years, Sam had watched the Garretts from her bedroom next door. They're life was so opposite from the one she led. Sam has the perfect trust-fund mother who currently is a congresswoman, and the beautiful older sister always out with her latest conquest. It's just the three of them, as Sam's dad left while her mother was pregnant with her. The Garretts always had a lot going on with eight children: five boys and three girls. They were the type that always had the toys lying about in the front yard, comings and goings at all times, loud pool antics and sports playing in the front drive. In contrast, Sam's family has nothing out of place. Her mother even makes sure to vacuum any trace of footprints out of the carpet before they leave. It was an unspoken command to stay away from the Garretts. But day after day, Sam found herself drawn to watching them until one day one of the sons, Jase, climbs up and talks to her. From then on Sam is tied inextricably to the Garretts, but most of all to Jase. When tragedy strikes their families, Sam's loyalty to her family and the Garretts is put to the test.
I fell head-over-heels in love with the Garretts. Their open love and affection they show to each other as so inviting. Something Sam has had lacking in her life. She falls not only for Jase, but for the whole family, and they fall for her. Little four-year old George seems to fall hardest, besides Jase of course. He is so cute with his affinity for random facts, National Geographic Kids, and his constant worry over what might happen. He loves Sam instantly, calling her Super Sailorgirl because of a waitressing outfit she comes home in one day. But that's what she is to him, a super-hero, always able to calm him down, and find a good reason why he doesn’t need to worry. She is drawn to this family and helps without being asked, it just comes naturally for her. Like with all the helpful dating tips she sends Andy's way. Or just watching baby Patsy so that her mother could have some free time. Sam finds that she fits in right away. I think she craved to be part of their obviously affectionate family from the start.
I loved Jase, he is the product of a loving family, able to give love so freely himself. He's all about care and thinking about other people. The way he helps with his younger brothers and sisters, without even thinking, or being told to, is so touching. The romance between Jase and Sam is one you could imagine lasting for years, and there were lovely swoony scenes between them that had my heart all a-flutter. Here's a quote from Jase, in the beginning of the story that made my knees go weak:
Jase's green eyes meet mine, then his lashes lower. "I guess I like things that take time and attention. More worthwhile that way." I don't know what it is about this that makes me blush, but something does.
Sam's mother, Grace, was a piece of work. Vain, self-centered, and judgmental, this is a woman who should've never had kids. She looks down her nose at the Garretts, saying there's one in every neighborhood: messy, too many kids, yard full of neglect and children's toys. Her mother is concentrating on her re-election campaign instead of her girls. She only seems concerned at making sure their lives are lived in a way that optimizes them as a campaign tool. Especially now that she has Clay, her new campaign manager and boyfriend. He's younger, charming and has Grace wrapped around his finger. Sam doesn't even recognize her mother and doesn't care for the effect Clay has on her. I felt very sad for Sam to have been raised by this woman.
This was a brilliant debut for author Huntley Fitzpatrick. I was riveted from the start of this lovely, touching and heartbreaking story. I would love to see another story revolving around Tim and Alice! That would be entertaining. I will certainly be picking up anything else Ms. Fitzpatrick decides to write.