“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 night 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?”
We all believe that we are on the outside, looking in to someone else’s life. Yet there are those who are putting us on in the inside, looking in. And we always think the grass is greener on the other side but sight is perceptive. We see what we want to see because we do not like the picture in front of us. My Life Next Door is a book about learning to see the world differently, or rather, paying close attention to what you’re really looking at. That everything that glitters isn't gold and what we really treasure can come from the simplest of gifts and joys of life. This book is also about seeing things from a different angle, whether that angle be through someone else’s eyes or through your own but from a different vantage point. This book is all about perception and not taking everything we see on its surface.
I like to think of this story as a modern day Romeo and Juliet mixed with some Pride and Prejudice. We have the Reeds who are prim and proper and are a symbol of how the world should be or what too many strive to make the world out to be. Then there are the Garretts; a little disorder, not too fancy schmancy but hearts full of gold that are always wide open. And like oil and water, the Reeds and the Garretts do not mix.
Yet Samantha cannot help but be fascinated by them. Watching them from her perch above on her roof, wondering what their lives must be like compared to her own. Until one night one of the Garretts, Jase, wonders onto her rooftop and descends her down to their world. Now Samantha is thrust into uncharted territory with Jase as her guide and she is steadying finding herself more and more lost within Jase and his family while losing touch with her own.
Mrs. Garrett is the queen of compassion despite how negatively the world views her with her eight children and less than strict but fair parenting; whereas Samantha’s mother is strict with no leniency and no tolerance for error or bad behavior. Samantha takes an unsure yet comforting liking to Mrs. Garrett, finding solace in a household raised in love, not rules. And soon Samantha is one of the family, babysitting the kids almost daily and helping them with their life problems while falling fast and hard for Jase. Samantha couldn't imagine a better summer, so long as her mother doesn't find out.
And surprisingly enough, Samantha’s mother doesn't find out. And it isn't because Samantha is a great at keeping secrets. No, her mom is being tongued down by the younger man who is helping her run her campaign for state senate reelection. So Samantha is in the clear, but she doesn't feel better about the situation between her mom and the charming campaign advisor Clay.
Suddenly her mom is turning into a teenage girl again, hanging on the every word of the Southern smooth talker; along her best friend, Nan, coming out of the woodwork as being a jealous, anal retentive harpy; constantly accusing Sam of having the good life while she has to work for everything and Tim, Nan’s twin brother, constantly smoking weed and always drinking, becoming yet another person she thought she knew. The life with Garretts is looking more and more appealing each day. Thus Sam is starting to realize that maybe her life wasn't perfect. It was just hard to see without something to compare it to. Will she be able to fix the drama in her once pristine world or maybe learn that what she has with Jase and his family is better than any illusion of order she had at home?
My Life Next Door is as I stated, a story about perception. How we will ourselves to see what we want to see instead of what is truly there. Forcing ourselves to believe that the grass is always greener on the other side, or in this case, not as green. But maybe that is the problem. Maybe we should start seeing the world, our world, from a different point of view and not take everything at surface value. This book teaches us that everything you know is always right, at least for you; everything that glitters is not gold and there is beauty in simplicity and life’s littlest of joys.
Reviewed by Camia Rhodes
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 6/13/2013