If I could give any book 10 stars this one would definitely take that and more. I've been a fan of Y.A. contemporary for years, with my favorite author being of course Mrs. Dessen, but Huntley Fitzpatrick took me for a loop here, because her debut was fantastic!
Samantha Reed lives next door to the Garretts. The Garretts, a large family (8 kids and counting, roughly about one or two years apart) are fun, loving, loud, messy and just plain amazing. This of course is everything Samantha's perfectionist mother (who I admit has some deep set issues) abhors. Due to that, Samantha lives a great majority of her life just watching the Garretts from afar.
One of my favorite things about contemporary reads in the Y.A genre is that the protagonist always seems to grow up, whether physically or metaphorically, throughout the course of the book. As the reader, I always feel as though I go on the journeys these characters face. By far, this was one of the best journeys. Samantha Reed was such a strong character. She starts out rather weak, easily bending to whatever her mother or sister ask of her, but as she meets the Garretts and shares in their love of life and the simple things, she finally finds something worth fighting for. To help her along the way is Jase Garrett, the third child in the family. Though it’s obvious from the starts that he likes Samantha, he never pushes her. Instead, he’s always there, understanding and listening. Both of them had so many opportunities where I thought they would act immature or run away from their problems, but their relationship was strong as a rock and I found that not only refreshing but endearing as well.
The entire story spans out over one summer, so it’s the perfect summer read in that sense. During this summer, Samantha finds more time by herself as her sister is away for the summer and her mother has immersed herself in a new man and her re-election campaign for state senator. Therefore, Samantha can easily hang with the Garretts and Jase without anyone finding out. It would seem like Samantha was ashamed of being with the Garretts, but it was very much the contrary, and I totally got why she didn’t want to share the news with anybody. It’s like when something really good happens to you, but you’re afraid to share it for fear that any bad thing will deter from your happiness.
The Garretts were a great family and the author surprised me in her depiction of them. For being such a big group of people, the author made sure each stood out and had something distinctive about them. Joel was the oldest, Alice the maneater, Jase the sweetheart/mechanic, Andy the young and unsure teenager, Duff the brain, Harry the troublemaker, George the most adorable thing on the face of this planet and Patsy with boob and poop (you’ll have to read to understand that last one). Out of them George was by far my favorite Garrett, after Jase of course, and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing hysterically at all the things that came out of his mouth. All in all, the Garretts really give Samantha a feel for what a family really is, something she lacks since her mother is so absent due to her campaigning. Of course, there is eventually a major source of conflict in the book which puts all the characters through the ringer. The way that it was handled though was great, keeping me at the edge of my seat, tears about to burst and later making me smile so big.
Definitely as a debut, Huntley Fitzpatrick wows her readers. Her writing is solid and though an adult, her portrayal of the teenagers and their doings is so on point. Furthermore, I loved how realistic her story was. The romance was sweet but unrushed. Never was anything sugar coated or perfect, but rather her characters faced reality and the fact that there is power in truth, even if it isn’t always ideal. All In all I more than recommend you pick up this book, because it was amazingly good! Can’t wait to see what more this author can give.
And now, a quote from George"Did you know that in space it's very, very cold? And there's no oxygen? And if an astronaut fell out of a shuttle without his suit he'd die right away?"
I'm a fast learner. "But that would never happen. Because astronauts are really, really careul."
George gives me a smile, the same dazzling sweet smile as his big brother, although at this point, with green teeth. "I might marry you," he allows. "Do you want a big family?"