Monday, April 7, 2014

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

"A boy. A secret. A summer."

It was ten years ago when the Garrett’s and their five children moved in next door to Samantha Reed. Immediately, her mother was unhappy. She recognized the Garrett's as "that family"; the ones who rarely mow their lawn, lets the flowers die and bring down the neighborhood's property values. She forbids her daughters from having anything to do with the Garrett’s after the "mandatory" welcome to the neighbor lasagna. Samantha's father left her mother when her sister Tracy was a toddler and her mother was pregnant with her. They survived on their mother's trust fund but her mother was disillusioned. The Reed girls found that they rarely saw the Garrett’s. Tracey and Samantha attended the only private school in their small Connecticut town while they Garrett's went to the public schools. Over the years, three more children were added to the Garrett household. Samantha's mother never knew that she constantly spied on the Garrett's from the rooftop ledge outside her bedroom over the years, watching a family so unlike her own, like a bedtime story. Samantha never saw herself as a participant in the story until that fateful day.

Mrs. Reed is now a state senator. A six foot tall privacy fence blocks the Reed house from the Garrett’s. One day while at home, Samantha hears a constant buzzing and goes to investigate. She realizes that it is the front doorbell and opens the door to find her mother frantically kissing a man. Samantha thinks that it is her father; she has only seen a couple of photos of him. Flustered, her mother introduces him as Clay Tucker, the newest and most enthusiastic member of her mother's reelection campaign. She tells Samantha that Clay was surprised that she was old enough to have a teenage daughter. Her mother goes to make coffee and Clay uses the opportunity to put Samantha in her place about serving her mother. She is left speechless and takes over for her mother. Samantha is taken aback by her mother's flirtatious and girlish new attitude. Without her sister or best friend, Nan, around to turn to, Samantha climbs out her window to watch the Garrett’s. Then the unexpected happens next.

While watching some of the Garrett children and their friends playing basketball in the driveway, she is surprised to hear a voice next to her on her window ledge. She turns to look and realizes that it is one of the Garrett boys, but she doesn't know which one. He asks if she needs rescuing. She reminds him of Rapunzel, the Princess locked in her tower. She asks who he is and he introduces himself as Jase Garrett. Samantha Reed lets him know that she is no princess. Soon, she finds herself telling Jase, a virtual stranger, all about meeting Clay Tucker and how she would like to inflict bodily harm against him. He tells her that he knows what she is feeling. He feels the same way about people who make unkind comments about the size of his family. A loud whop comes from the driveway. Samantha asks him why he isn't down there and he responds with, "you tell me, Samantha."

After work the next day, Samantha comes home and notices that it is quiet next door. She looks over at the Garrett's house and sees Jase working on a motorcycle in the driveway. Before she can think better I'd it, she walks over to talk to him. He comments on her risqué work uniform and lets her know that he is babysitting his youngest siblings while his mother is at the grocery store. She asks if he is thirsty and offers to go get him some lemonade. Jase asks her to please come back over. After a shower and change of clothes, Samantha carries over two glasses of lemonade. He gulps one down before Tracy's boyfriend comes looking for her. After Samantha tells him where to find her, he leaves. Suddenly, Samantha hears crying and Jase explains that it is the baby monitor and asks her to come inside. She follows. His brother George is up and has wet the bed during nap time. The baby, Patsy, is also up. Jase starts to get them settles when he sees that George only has on a shirt. Not one to like strangers, George immediately takes to Samantha. Then, Jase's mother comes in carrying a load of grocery bags. Jase goes out to carry in the rest and Mrs. Garret begins talking to Samantha. When he is finished, Jase invites Samantha to sit in his room while he takes a shower. George comes in and asks if they are going to get married and have a large family. Samantha tells him that she is only seventeen but deep down, she begins to find that her stomach flips when she is around Jase.

Samantha goes the next day to see her best friend Nan. They are both disheartened to see that Nan's twin, Tim, is either drunk or stoned or both. Their parents seem to turn a blind eye to their troubled son. The girls walk downtown to get some ice cream and candy and discuss Tim, their summers and plans for college next fall. Samantha looks up and sees Clay Tucker with a woman younger than her mother. He is also kissing her. She tells Nan that he is her mother's new boyfriend and campaign manager. He looks up, sees Samantha and waves. As the week goes on, several things happen. Tim comes by her restaurant job and harnesses Samantha for some money. When she refuses, he steals her tips off of the table. Clay tells her mother that she needs to change her image if she wants to defeat her competitor. She doesn't want to come across as the aloof, wealthy woman that she really is. Mrs. Garrett hires her as a babysitter since she is so good with George and agrees. Samantha begins to find reasons to continue to see Jase. Soon, Samantha finds herself leading two separate and very different lives; one as a Reed and another with the Garrett family. She doesn't tell anyone, especially her snooty mother that she hanging around the Garret household and seeing Jase.

Does Samantha's mother win reelection? Who exactly is Clay Tucker and will he destroy her mother's heart? Will anyone get Nan's brother Tim help for his problems before it is too late? What happens when everyone, especially her mother, finds out that Samantha is not only in love with Jase Garrett but his entire family?

Book two in the series, The Boy Most Likely To, will feature Tim and be out in 2015.

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