Published: June 2013
Genre: young adult, romance, contemporary
Life in Samantha Reed’s home is neat and clean and orderly — precisely planned by her local politician mother. Next door, at the Garretts’, things are loud, messy, and irresistible. And when Jase Garrett climbs the trellis outside her bedroom and enters her life, she finds herself falling passionately in love with him and everything he brings with him. The only hitch is, she’s got to hide it from her mother. Then something unthinkable happens, and Samantha is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
Ten years ago, when the large Garrett family moved in next door, Mrs. Reed made her daughters promise never to interact with the Garretts. But Samantha was always intrigued by this boisterous, loving family, and would watch them through her window and wonder what it was like to have so many caring people in one’s life. One night, Jase Garrett, the third child in a line of eight, climbs up to her window and asks if she needs rescuing, like a princess locked in a tower. From that night on, Sam’s life is entwined with the Garretts’ — every meltdown, every meal, every new word for the baby. But as she embraces that loving chaos, she notices more and more her mother’s political antics and double-crossings, and begins to wonder which life she really belongs in.
This is so much more than a summer romance. There’s a whole topic on family and familial relationships, the interactions between each child and “it takes a village” concept in the Garrett household. It’s so beautiful and chaotic and fun. There are so many children to keep track of, and yet each character is so fully developed — with their own speech, interests, life outside the Garrett house — that it’s easy to remember them. Especially George. Sweet, sweet George. There’s another topic on parental controls, when too much is too much, when habits become obsessions, when hypocrisy becomes apparent. Mrs. Reed was so frustrating, but Sam handled her and the situation so well, so authentically, so realistically.
Sam. Sam and Jase. Jase. Their relationship was perfection. I don’t mean this in a “so picture perfect it can’t be real” kind of way — but in how relationships ought to be and the way many are. Trusting and loving, patient, open. Even when there are riffs, the two manage to communicate without drama and angst (unlike the situation with Sam’s best friend Nan, and Nan and her boyfriend Daniel). They were wise beyond their years, and it was so refreshing to read. Yes, they’re madly in love, and lust after one another, but they’re also serious and playful, they help each other at work and at home. Sam embraced the village aspect of the Garrett household so well, it’s as if she was meant for it. And she realizes this after the big blow-out towards the end between the Garretts and her mother.
Fitzpatrick is one to watch. I’m putting her up there with Dessen (joining the ranks with Forman!). Not everything in the end works out perfectly, but there’s enough of a satisfying ending to the book that hints at a bright or better future for Sam and Jase, for the Garretts, for Nan and her brother Tim, for Mrs. Reed. There’s a road to recovery for some, a road for peace for others, and a road of happiness and trust. Ugh. Thank you, Fitzpatrick! Well done.