This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by Rachel Blaufeld. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book category.
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate.
And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own.
Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision.
Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
And here is Rachel's review:
Recently, I have found myself caught up in a whirlwind of New Adult books with one being more dark than the next. My Life Next Door is nothing like that at all. While the main characters, Samantha and Jase, face challenges and experience angst and big decisions as in many Young Adult Novels, this book is full of first love. The kind of love we all think about when we fell hard the first time, and we amazingly believed that this other person was our forever one.
This story made me laugh (and cry) right from the beginning with its spot-on generalization of parents today. Samantha comes from a perfect family with 2 kids, an over-indulgent country club mom, and a wraparound fence (ok, minus a father). On the other side of the fence lives Jase Garrett, one of eight kids (and growing). The description of the 2 houses side by side, one so serene and austere and the other brimming with chaos and public breast feeding (gasp) reminded of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen when Steve Martin and his brood of 12 move next door to the organic eating, Ivy- League hopeful parents of one. This is the way of our world today. Helicopter Parenting contradicted with a return to life of yesteryear.
The 2 oh-so different houses next door set a fabulous backdrop for Jase to rescue Samantha from drowning in the quiet and order as her mom is further consumed with her political career while dating her campaign manager. For years, Samantha has wondered and dreamed what it would be like to be a Garrett from the little ledge outside her room. Little did she know, Jase was wondering the same.
“When I saw you. Sitting on your roof. For years.”
“You saw me? For years?” I feel myself flush again…….
“…Couldn’t help watching back then, though.”
At Jase’s side, Sam learns to love fully. Thrown into the fire of life, Samantha discovers the beauty of chaos from wet beds to dirty diapers to sibling rivalry to over-curious toddlers and teenage love.
Jase is so sweet and capable, Samantha cannot help to fall deep in love. Samantha has barely lived life until Jase came along and the two of them set down the path of a summer romance of firsts. With every new experience, I, personally, was falling more and more in love with Jase.
Jase not only shows Samantha living on the edge, but responsibility for oneself and family. He casts a wide net in this pursuit when helping a childhood friend of Samantha’s out of a bad way.
Sam is further dragged into the mayhem known as the Garretts when tragedy strikes, yet is unable to tell anyone how close this tragedy really is to home for her. Testing their newly found love and devotion, Sam is forced to make hard choices when it comes to Jase. Samantha learns that serenity, appearances and the safe way out is not always the best.
I give this book an A-. I loved the sweetness of the story. I adored Jase’s gentleness and Jase and Sam’s love brought back so many memories for me. I would have loved a little longer epilogue and/or a bit more after the conflict was resolved. Otherwise, this book was such a sweet, sweet escape for me.