My Life Next Door
is a 2012 romance novel by Huntley Fitzpatrick. It follows a summer fling between two teenage neighbors, Samantha Reed and Jase Garrett. Coming from very different familial and economic backgrounds, they carry out their relationship in secret after Samantha’s mother forbids her from associating with Jase’s family. Samantha juggles this secret romance with her tumultuous childhood friendships, summer jobs, and her mother’s new boyfriend.
The book begins in Samantha’s early childhood, when the Garrett family moves into the house next to the Reeds’. The Garretts are a chaotic family with eight children, and they occupy a similar-sized house as Samantha, her sister, Tracy, and her mother, Grace. Grace opposes the Garrett family’s arrival, lamenting that it will lower property values. She forbids Samantha from playing with them; as a result, Samantha watches them play from her window, imagining their lives.
The novel then jumps 10 years into the future. Samantha is on summer break before her last year of high school. Grace is now a state senator running for reelection and Tracy waitresses in Martha’s Vineyard to save money before starting college in the fall. One night, Samantha discovers her mom and her young political advisor making out. Irritated, she withdraws to her private spot on the roof. Jase, her neighbor, joins her. A few days later, he invites her into his house, where she is surprised at his family’s disorganized and crowded life. Mrs. Garrett asks Samantha to babysit the younger kids, and she agrees despite knowing her mother’s objections.
Jase and Samantha continue to get closer and frequently go on secret dates. Samantha hides the relationship from even her best friend, Nan Mason; Nan has her own suffering relationship, exacerbated by her college applications and her brother Tim’s drug abuse problems. On a road trip with Tim that goes awry, Tim gets drunk and passes out. Samantha spills the details of her relationship to Nan, who expresses jealousy, stating that it is unfair how few problems Samantha has.
A few nights later, Jase sneaks through Samantha’s bedroom window and asks her why she has kept him a secret. Samantha denies that she has, and they fall asleep together, deciding to take their relationship slowly. Meanwhile, they help Tim get a job working for Grace’s campaign, as well as at a local hardware store. In exchange for the job, the store owner requires Tim to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. A few days later, Jase runs into Grace while visiting Samantha. Grace is furious at Samantha, and forbids her from seeing him again. Rejecting her demand, Samantha brings Jase back to formally introduce him to her mother and validate their relationship.
Samantha and Jase continue dating, as Tim works hard on Grace’s campaign. He ends up quitting, explaining that Clay—the political advisor—was a manipulative boss who sought to win by destroying the political opponent’s career through character attacks. A few days later, Samantha joins a political event. Grace volunteers to drive home after drinking, and Samantha passes out in the car. She awakes to a sudden thud; after Samantha inquires, Clay tells Grace to drive away. Both assure Samantha they haven’t caused any damage. After returning home, Jase tells Samantha that his father has been injured in a hit-and-run and is in critical condition in the hospital. Samantha theorizes that her mother hit Mr. Garrett, but pushes the thought to the back of her mind. Clay orders Samantha not to say anything to jeopardize her mother’s political campaign or criminal status, dangling the possibility that the Republican Party could make her a national candidate soon. The Garrett family, meanwhile, struggles without income or health insurance, while Samantha is overcome by guilt every time she babysits or sees Jase.
Samantha pressures Clay and Grace once more to come forward with the truth. Clay responds by threatening to put the Garretts’ hardware store out of business if she doesn’t break up with Jase. Samantha acquiesces, and falls into depression. After talking with Tim, he convinces her to tell Jase what happened to his father. To her surprise, he forgives her. When Clay discovers that Jase knows, he argues that if Grace is charged, Samantha will suffer as well. Grace resolves to talk to the Garretts, and Clay breaks up with her.
After Grace’s confession, the Garretts agree to keep the matter private. Grace promises to pay their medical bills and other expenses and drop out of the race. Clay writes her resignation speech and moves on to work on her opponent’s campaign, proving once more his lack of a moral compass. The novel concludes with Grace deciding to sell the house.
Samantha is unbothered by her loss of home at the end of the novel; though she will miss her memories of watching the Garretts’ house as a child, she can now actively participate in the world. My Life Next Door
is a reflection on the complexities of the personal transformation every adolescent must make to transition from being obedient and receptive to being self-governing and active in the emotional and social world.