I’m not sure if I would’ve enjoyed My Life Next Door as much as I did had I read a physical book of it myself. There’s no doubt I would’ve liked it just not quite as much. As it is, My Life Next Door is the kind of book I very much enjoy listening to as an audiobook. It is a sweet story that portrays depth in the characters without being so overly complex in terms of the plot that I can’t concentrate on the book while going about my chores. Although, I did also sit down only to listen for some parts which I usually don’t. Usually I listen to audiobooks while I’m otherwise engaged, organising my room, for instance.
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?
See, the Garrett’s were a very charming family. Lots of them to keep track of too. And while this books largely revolves around the romance between Samantha and Jase, I can’t help but say I totally fell in love with another boy: George. George was crazy adorable! At four years of age he had a mighty huge personality. That’s what I really liked about My Life Next Door. It wasn’t just all about Sam and her summer with Jase. His family formed a big part of it too and I really felt like I got to know most of his siblings just as well. Particularly Alice, who was very protective of her brother and wasn’t afraid to let Sam know. So besides Sam, there was another prominent female character who contributed to the story. My Life Next Door then is a very apt title because Sam did spend a lot of time with her neighbours, not just for Jase but also to babysit his younger siblings.
Still, Sam’s life did not only revolve around them. Thank goodness. Her life involved the drama of her own home. Her mother didn’t want her associating with the Garretts but she was too busy running for state senator to be chasing after Sam. Although she did insist that Sam not follow in the footsteps of the rebellious teen her elder sister had been. Also, there were her best friend, Nan, whose friendship meant a lot to her, particularly with Nan’s brother who used to be just a close friend drifting. Tim came to be in a very bad place and it through how Sam dealt with it that I felt I also got to know Sam better.
I liked Sam. She was a girl who made an effort to stay out of trouble. She behaved herself, except for the occasional times that she snuck out of the house but I daresay many a teenager is guilty of that. She didn’t even sneak out to party. She did it sometimes for herself to enjoy the quiet of the night, sometimes for Jase to see him, and for the Garretts when they needed her. She wasn’t perfect though. She made mistakes, she faced problems she wasn’t sure how to navigate. Therein lay her charm. Anyone would be rooting for her. I know I was. She was witty too, even if she kept her thoughts to herself, such as when she disagreed with her mother.
I cannot help but wonder if any parents ever actually schedule in adoloscent drama on their day planners.
The prose and the narration fit well together. While I still think it weird when a story set in first-person from the point of view of a teenager is narrated by an adult, I quickly got used to it. Amy Rubinate delivered Sam’s voice in a believable manner, bringing across both serious and light-hearted situations well. She brought every character alive too whenever they spoke. I could almost imagine listening in on the actual conversations.
“What about Thorp, Samantha? Flip’s younger brother. He’s such a nice boy.”
She’s suggesting dates for me now? This is new and bizarre behaviour for mum. “Uh, Thorp plays for the other team,” I tell her.
“Well, I hardly think his sports allegiance is a matter,” she says. “He’s always had such lovely manners.”
“He’s been out of the closet since middle school, mum.”
She blinks rapidly, absorbing this, “Oh. Oh! Well, then.”