My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fitzpatrick has this written across the top of the cover:
"A boy. A secret. A summer."
Boom. All you need to know to pick up the book, really. That's a great YA love story in the making right there.
What was really interesting to me about this book is that it is the only YA book I can think of other than books by Madeleine L'Engle that made me ponder myself as a parent almost more than how I was a teen. There are two moms involved in the story: the uptight and unhappy mother of Samatha Reed, the protagonist, and Ms. Garrett, the mother of eight children who lives next door in what appears to be a constant state of chaos. As Sam grows to know Jase Garrett, she is drawn into his family and sees the love, joy and laughter in their family that is lacking in hers. Her mom is a single mom and never seemed to know quite what to do with her and her sister. There was a moment that brought a pang to my heart, though, because I identified with the clueless but perfectionistic mom. She is described as the kind of mom who would plan out meals based on a theme like, "Soups on Mondays," and "Pastas on Tuesdays," etc.
PEOPLE: I HAVE DONE THAT. Granted, it didn't last long, but I actually love this idea.
I literally froze right there as I stared at the page. I don't want to be the kind of mom Ms. Reed is (and I do realize that detailed meal planning does not equal a cold-hearted detached mom-- it was just an unexpected detail.) When Ms. Reed is concerned about what level of physicality might be happening between her daughter and Jase, it's finger-pointing and "Not under my roof, young lady!" Whereas, Jase's parents have an entirely different approach when suspect their 17 year old son is getting ready for physical intimacy with someone.
Speaking of sexuality and intimacy, this book does spend a good bit of time touching on that topic also, so to speak, and I would imagine some parents might have concerns about it for that reason. I actually plan on asking my girls to read it when they are in high school, because I like how the couple is presented as they fall in love with each other and try to navigate the tricky minefield of adolescent sexuality together. It's handled with delicacy and tact while still being a great read. Very sweet story.
For the record, I knew around chapter 8 that this author had to be the
mom of a big family and I was right-- she's got six kids. No one else
could have portrayed the reality of life with that many children. I
have a number of friends with large, beautiful families, so I get to
hear stories from them all the time, both about their own families and
how other people tend to react to them. I bet they would enjoy this story, too. I got as much of a kick out of vicariously living with the Garretts as I did from the central love story.