My Life Next Door is a really sweet summer romance that also has some real conflict and depth. I knew going in that something Bad was going to happen and I kept twitchily anticipating it, like I was playing that hand slap game with Huntley Fitzpatrick. Maybe it's just me, but it's almost like Tim, while well-realized and fully dimensional, is a red herring character. Spoiler alert: he's a good guy.
In fact, all the worries I had about what this book would be or what the characters would do never materialized. (I had just read a couple of not-great books, and that is probably why I came into this one so skeptically.) Samantha never lets her mom's prejudice against the Garretts really be a thing; even when Jase inevitably asks if she's embarrassed by him it's natural and adult instead of overblown and melodramatic. They have a responsible AND swoony relationship. Jase also manages to be a really great guy while also actually being a really great guy. And normal! In YA lit, that counts for a lot. He's not secretly creepy or troubled or soul-matey or overly perfect.
When the terrible thing does happen, Samantha handles it in a way that doesn't make you want to punch her in the face. Her conflict makes sense, and the issue of doing the right thing when you don't know who to do the right thing for is real and important.
I don't know how many times I can say this, but this is a really good book that had a million opportunities to plunge into melodrama and NEVER DID. Kudos, Ms. Fitzpatrick. There were a few loose ends at the close of the book, and we don't know what exactly so-and-so decided or if Nan would ever talk to Samantha again, but you know, that's life.
Last but not least, I love Jase's little brother George. What a cutie. Also, hilarious.