Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 14, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another
“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”
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?
A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.
I need a little help from (the cute version of) Britney Spears before I go any further.
I think I did it again
A book drove me nuts, a wall got a dent
It might seem like I’m tough
But it doesn’t mean that I don’t get love
Just losing all of my brain cells
That is just not typically me
Oh baby, baby
Oops!…I did it again
I quit one more book, my Kindle went dark
Oh baby, baby
Oops!…I thought it’d be fine
’til Sam $%& and ^% *$ and *@!~+
I’m not that tolerant.
As you can guess, this was a DNF. I made it to 76% and in the aftermath of a major event, I realized I was disgusted by Samantha. With no earthly reason for a happy ending I could believe in anymore, I threw in the towel and immediately felt better.
There will be spoilers since I’m going to have a very hard time explaining what pushed me over the edge here without them. I’ll put them all behind white text and I’ll warn you that they’re coming. They’ll all be sort of important to the plot/relationships, so if you’re planning on reading and absolutely don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read them!
Samantha and her older sister live alone with their snobby, driven, perfectionist politician mother. Their dad took off when she was pregnant with Samantha and that’s just fine with Mom, since his people weren’t the right kind anyway. They were like the Garretts, the people who moved next door: loud, messy and worst of all, terribly fertile and happy to be so. Thank goodness Samantha’s mom has that nice tall privacy fence. It wouldn’t do to have her girls consorting with that family.
The Garrett house is full of life and so different from her cold empty one that Samantha is drawn to it. She watches the family from her bedroom window, putting faces to the names. One night, Jase Garrett climbs her trellis – he’s been watching her too – and they start meeting on her roof. She’s embraced by his family, drafted into babysitting duty, become a trusted advice-giver and is warily accepted by another teenaged sister.
The Garretts are the best part of the story and the reason I kept reading. They’re wonderful, from little adorable George who’s full of doom and gloom statistics to Patsy who keeps saying, “boob” and “poop,” and poor Andy who’s stressing out about her first kiss. Jase is seventeen but could pass for someone out of high school with the jobs and responsibilities he has. He’s confident, loves his family and takes care of them, is sweet and funny with Sam and doesn’t hide any part of himself from her.
Sam lives in Bizarro World. Her mother is running for Senate and has had a personality transplant, becoming a robo-Republican toeing the hardline on issues she never touched before. She’s firmly under the influence of a sleazy pol that only has his interests at heart and has taken over. Sam’s older sister has been shipped off to a summer camp with her boyfriend at the suggestion of the pol – Tracy’s been in some minor trouble and it’s not a bad thing to have her out of the way. Sam has plenty of time to spend at the Garrett’s because no one in her house is there to care where she is. It’s odd that a woman hell-bent on getting elected to a major political office and a pol obsessed with pushing her there would let a seventeen-year-old girl wander around on her own. Hmm.
Prepare for the big blocks of white space because it’s spoiler time, folks! By the halfway point, I’d determined the following:
- Samantha is a crappy friend to Nan: She never even told Nan she was seeing Jase until over a month had passed. Even after that, she barely spoke to her, only catching up with her when Nan’s boyfriend dumped her or did something. Then she found out **Nan was cheating, stealing Tim’s speech and cheating on her SATs and did nothing.** Some friend.
- Samantha is a crappy friend to Tim: Tim was sick from his addictions, really, really sick. Sam knew it for a long time and while it wasn’t entirely her responsibility, she enabled him all of the time by helping Nan hide his behavior from his family. ** When he could have killed her and Nan while driving stoned and drunk, she helped hide it. When she found out Nan had stolen his speech, she didn’t tell him. She also helped him get a job as a lifeguard knowing he was a drunken stoner, knowing he was slacking off at the pool, putting people in danger.**
- Samantha is a crappy daughter: She’s not entirely responsible for her mother’s life or her choices, but **she saw the things Clay (the pol) was doing with the other woman, she suspected some things he was doing were not all that legal, she knew he was encouraging her mother to do things she wouldn’t normally do, including some potentially improper/illegal things.**
But the worst. The worst, the worst, the unforgiveable for me:
Giant spoiler ahoy:
**Samantha’s mother was driving drunk with Clay and Samantha in the car. She hit Jase’s father who was walking by the side of the road and left him there, critically injured. When Jase called Samantha to come help watch the kids because he needed to race to the hospital, she rationalized it away – he couldn’t have been what her mother hit. When she found out Mr. Garrett had been hit on the same road her mother had been driving, she said nothing. When she found out the Garretts had no insurance because they couldn’t afford it, she felt badly but still was thinking it couldn’t possibly have been her mother. While Jase took comfort in her presence in his house, while she played with and babysat the Garrett children while they drilled a hole in his father’s head to keep the swelling in his brain down, she kept herself in la-la land, convincing herself that she wasn’t in the car that slammed into his father as he walked down the side of the road then left him to possibly die. When she finally figured out it had to be true, she kept silent.**
I’m sure for a lot of people there are ways in Fictionland that an author can work around such a horrible thing. A way for love to overcome all, for redemption and healing, grand gestures and a finale complete with a moral fit for a sampler. Not for me, not for this situation and this character. In that moment, with this character that I already was having trouble liking, I fully despised her. I didn’t care what her motivation was, what she wanted for herself. She was a coward who didn’t do the right thing for anyone but herself and I can’t bring myself to want a happy ending for a really good guy and a girl like that.
I don’t even want to summarize this one. It’s a DNF with a wish that I hadn’t started it. I’ve seen people compare this to Anna and the French Kiss – that makes my brain start to bleed.
***My dear, dear friend Nick at Nick’s Book Blog and I almost always agree on our reviews (she has amazing taste). She liked this book a lot and wrote a great review explaining why – it’s always fun and wise to get all sorts of views of a book (hey, isn’t that what book blogging is about?), so go check out her review for a different opinion: Nick reviews My Life Next Door Thank goodness her awesomeness makes up for our book difference on this one. ;)***
I’m still right though. KIDDING, KIDDING!!