For the last ten years, Samantha Reed, her senator mother and older sister have lived next door to the Garretts. According to Mrs. Reed, who makes her own homemade lemonade, vacuums the carpet in the correct pattern every evening, and does everything perfectly as a single and overachieving mother of two, the Garretts are everything that’s wrong in a respectable neighborhood. They have eight children, are always loud, leave toys in the yard, don’t take care of their flower beds, don’t mow the lawn on time, and the mother breastfeeds on the porch. When they moved next door, Mrs. Reed did her best to block them out and ignore them, expecting her daughters to follow her example. Not Samantha. She’s fascinated by them. Since they moved in, she’s used the small balcony off her room to sit and watch them, wondering what life would be like with so many siblings, a mother and a father, and the happiness they seem to have in their house. This summer, that all changes, when Jase Garrett joins Samantha on her balcony, and instead of being the watcher, she finally begins to live the life she’s always wanted, even if that means the world as she knows it is torn apart.
It’s quite a journey for Samantha in this book. She begins as a very passive character, always seeming to have everything fall into place for her. She’s also a good girl and does what is expected and believed of her. Her mother asks her to do chores, Sam does them. She works two jobs, and is always the model employee. Her grades are good, and she tries to be a great listener with her best friend, but Samantha always seems to be overlooked. Her mother is out winning campaigns and being a spotlight in the community while her sister is out with her boyfriend and partying, but Samantha is always left at home, dutiful, docile, predictable. When she meets Jase, she knows that any relationship between them would be a Great Disappointment to her mother, but she can’t help it. He’s the most wonderful guy she’s ever met, and to see how he cares for his siblings, fixes broken things, and has a strong work ethic and dreams, she’s head over heels before she can blink. It doesn’t seem to matter that her mother, who’s been increasingly embroiled in a love affair with her campaign manager and the political schmoozing of running for office again, doesn’t know about her love for Jase and how she’s been sucked into his family as if she’s belonged there all along. And then suddenly, Samantha’s perfect life is derailed and she’s left with a heartrending choice. Her family or her boyfriend and his family. There can be no both, because when there’s one against the other and you know something terrible, you have to pick a side and stick with it.
One of the best contemporary romance books for teens I’ve ever read! So addicting that I couldn’t help but fall in love with Samantha and Jase. This novel at times can be laugh-out-loud funny, achingly poignant, sweet and touching, and can guilt your own heart to pieces at the climax. There are sexual, drug, and alcohol references. The next in the series is set for 2015.