Are you ready to have your heart broken and then slowly put back together piece by piece? That’s what Jared Reck does in A Short History of the Girl Next Door and I loved it!
The book unfolded in three distinct parts for me:
Part 1: Protagonist Matt Wainwright details his life growing up with Tabby, the girl next door, and how he came to fall in love with her. This part of the book is filled with glimpses into the male psyche and what it’s like to fall in love as a 15 year old boy. As the mother/stepmother of boys, I found it fascinating and (I imagine) very true to life. I loved witnessing Matt’s neuroses as he grows both physically and emotionally with Tabby. Trigger alert: this part of the book is particularly sweary. I had no problem with it as I needed it to be true to the make adolescent mind and I strongly suspect that F-bombs abound there but, if swear words are problematic for you or you don’t want your tweens/teens reading them, this book is a hard pass for you!
Part 2: I struggled with this third of the book. It seemed to revolve into a lot of dithering and whining for Matt and frankly, I almost gave up on him. Reck may have dragged the internal dialogue on a little too long for me but I stuck with it and was rewarded: the climax of the book happens 3/4 of the way in. No spoilers but Matt’s life is changed dramatically and we the incredible internal struggle he faces in dealing with that turn of events. All in all, this 1/3 of the book was (minus the piece of action) entirely too internal for me. I’m truly glad I stuck with it though because…
Part 3: We get to see Matt come to terms with his ‘new normal.’ Matt’s adjustment in this portion of the book is well-written and heartwarming but not the highlight. Reck creates characters that are so well-defined and important to Matt that I was truly invested in them. Watching the ways that they cane together to impact Matt’s healing was one of the best part’s if the book. Scenes with Grandpa Wainwright, Murray and Mr. Ellis left me checking my mascara and I love a book that can wring me out emotionally.
Bonus points: Reck makes several references to one of my favorite YA books of all time…The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Really, if you haven’t read it…read Matt’s story and then go buy it immediately!
Overall, I loved this book and am very happy that I invested my tune to read it. It’s filled with laughs, tears, relationships and sports. It’s YA (and you know I love me some YA) but doesn’t condescend to the reader or devolve into ‘meet cute.’ I would recommend A Short History of the Girl Next Door to anyone who needs to feel all the feels!