Samantha has been watching the large, always-busy Garrett family next door for years, from her bedroom window or a perch on her roof. Their rather chaotic and noisy life contrasts with her own quiet and tidy home experience, with just one older sister and a single mom who has a trust fund and a cleanliness obsession. Her mother, a state senator running for higher office, looks down her nose at the Garretts and always makes negative comments about them, so Samantha has only watched them and never met them. But one summer day she does meet them, starting with Jase, the third-oldest who is her age, 17. From then on, she can’t stay away, and she quickly enters a relationship with him and gets caught up in their busy family life, reassuring the bright but anxiety-ridden preschooler and even changing the diapers of the baby.
Meanwhile, summer goes on, which includes a couple of part-time jobs and the surprise appearance of a new man in her mother’s life, one she feels is a bit too slick. It also ends up including friction with her best friend and with that friend’s twin brother, whose life is spiraling out of control. Even as she spends more and more time living in the Garretts’ “world,” she keeps it a secret from her mom.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading My Life Next Door; I just loved the Garretts. Their life was messy and chaotic but pretty real and a charming depiction of life in a happy, large family. I couldn’t blame Samantha for wanting to be near them. And the chemistry between her and Jase is “swoon-worthy.” Main drawbacks? The teen sex and the ridiculously high number of uses of the f-word. Fitzpatrick could have written a perfectly darling book without that.
Rated: High, for probably about 30 uses of strong language, as well as less strong language, and teen sex. There are somewhat casual references to Sam’s sister having sex regularly and being on birth control, and then there are detailed scenes involving Sam herself. There is also reference to alcohol and drug use, but it is handled in a way to show how much damage it is causing the character involved in it.