I recently read the sequel to this book, and…
It was so good.
The Boy Most Likely To picks up shortly after My Life Next Door leaves off, and is told from different characters’ points of view: Tim, Nan’s screwup of a twin brother, and Alice, Jace’s “super hot” older sister. Both of these characters are more interesting than Samantha, who narrates the first story well but is on her own rather dull. Tim and Alice are a different story.
The best thing about this novel, easily, is Tim’s utterly disarming voice:
I’ve been summoned to see the Nowhere Man.
He’s at his desk when I step inside the gray cave of his office, his back turned.
He holds up his hand, keeps scribbling on a blue-lined pad.
Standard operating procedure.
I flick my eyes around the room: the mantel, the carpet, the bookshelves, the window; try to find a comfortable place to land.
Ma’s fond of “cute”–teddy bears in seasonal outfits and pillows with little sayings and shit she gets on QVC. They’re everywhere. Except here, a room spliced out of John Grisham, all leather-bound, only muted light through the shades. August heat outdoors, but no hint of that allowed in here. I face the rear of Pop’s neck, hunch further into the gray, granite-hard sofa, rub my eyes, slink back on my elbows.
Well first off, Fitzpatrick’s writing is incredible. What an effective setting-the-scene. And filtered through Tim’s teenage-boy voice, this opening is damn near perfect.
“The reformed bad boy” can so easily become a cliche. Tim is not a cliche. He’s an actual person, and it’s so refreshing. He’s also incredibly real. The author has clearly spent a good amount of time around teenage boys, or else was one in a past life. Tim actually reminded me of specific boys I have known throughout my life. Terribly flawed, but trying so hard to do the right thing. It’s very easy to fall in love with Tim.
Then there’s Alice. I liked her a little less, mostly because the author didn’t entirely pull off lifting her out of cliche-land the way she did Tim. “Beautiful man-eating tough girl” she still was. Also her voice was too similar to Tim’s.
But I didn’t hate her, and I loved reading their story unfold. Slow-burn sexual tension: check. (Though I do wish we got a little more of Alice’s thought-process on the matter. Her feelings for him seemed to turn around awfully quickly.) Lovely, realistic end-of-summer setting: check. Appropriate reactions to situations: check. A lively cast of supporting, realistic characters (including a big family! I love big families): check.
The storyline was rather predictable, including the “twist” at the climax, and where the little problematic plot point was going to end up, but I didn’t really care all that much. Because I was enjoying the story so much.
Maybe thinking any one person can show up and give you all you need is as much of a delusion as thinking you can find truth in a bottle. Maybe you can just mind what you need in little pieces, in people who show up for one crucial moment–or a whole chain of them–even if they can’t solve it all. Maybe this is the secret of big families, like the Garretts … and like AA. People’s strengths can take their turn. There can be more of us than there is trouble.
Solid 8/10. Read it!