“A Short History of the Girl Next Door” by: Jared Reck

Excuse me while I find tissues. I’m not crying, you’re crying!
*blows nose daintily*

Okay, I’m back, let’s write this review!

Matt and Tabby grew up together as besties. As teens they still are besties, but a little bit more strained as hormones take over. Tabby actually lives across the street instead of next door, but the “movie in Matt’s head” doesn’t care to really get into that distinction.

Tabby loves Nerds candy, being on her phone, and Ewoks from Return of the Jedi. She and Matt bond over these things and Matt shows us how Tabby has been the leader between them with Matt going along for the ride in their misadventures throughout the years.

Matt starts to miss his friend when she begins to start “talking” to a Senior in their school. They are Freshmen. This is a bit scandalous.

Tabby still comes around to celebrate Halloween with Matt and his little brother Murray. Murray also loves to play Candy Land and Matt does voices for some of the characters of the game.

Matt is big into basketball and time spent practicing along with the rules explained throughout seemed legit to me(as someone who never really got into basketball).

Matt comes across as any teen does around the age of fifteen. Unsure of himself, overly critical, overthinking. He isn’t a perfect character, but he is easy to relate to. I love and adore imperfect characters so much.

Matt relives in his memories when he first realized he was in love with his best friend. The memories feel authentic like they could have actually happened to any two kids.

Trip, another friend of Matt, offers some more comic relief and he plays on the basketball team with Matt. The language use is authentic to teens with some f-bombs getting dropped here and there too.

The adults are encouraging and helpful. We have a story that doesn’t mysteriously hide all adults from the happenings which is refreshing. They are vibrant and in short, have their own lives and personalities. The adults are fleshed out enough, without being overdone, to give us a strong sense of unobtrusive world-building. So we have a wide cast of adult characters from the bus driver who hands out Little Hugs, to Matts’ Mom who hands out some much-needed wisdom later on. From Matts’ Grandpa who shows him a deep held long ago memory that still pains him, to Matts’ literary teacher that encourages his writing and has quirks of his own.

About halfway through the book, a big moment happens very quickly and really one sentence changes the entire direction of the rest of the novel. I don’t want to spoil this because I feel like not knowing about it going in is what packs the huge gut punch tear-jerker reaction.

The way that this one sentence game changer is handled is done with skill and again such authenticity, that I was blown away by it. I was in awe. This book is a showcase of what great writing craft is.

Seriously the writing is so on point I can’t even! Clearly, Jared Reck is an excellent teacher. He would have to be to have churned out such an incredible first novel! The weaving of timelines from the present to what had happened with Matt and Tabby growing up, the bonding elements between characters, the rich inner dialogue, the teenage “voice”, the character developments for each person…damn. I *wish* I had had such a great writer as my teacher while I was in school!

Being able to tackle such a heavy subject in a way that still manages to move everything along just like real life was outstanding and heartbreaking and beautiful and oh hell, where are those tissues again?!

Truly, if you want an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be a teen, that gets into the mindset and daily life of a teen, that will tug at your heartstrings and move you to tears, then this is it.

I am not exaggerating to say that this was the most well-written YA I have read this entire year….maybe ever. Do yourself a favor by finding yourself a copy and don’t forget the tissues. You will be SO glad you did.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The unrequited love of the girl next door is the centerpiece of this fiercely funny, yet heart-breaking debut novel.

Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jared Reck is a debut author. He received a BA in English from Clemson University, a Master’s in Educational Leadership, and recently completed graduate coursework in McDaniel College’s Writing for Children & Young Adults program. He lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, where he’s an eighth-grade Language Arts teacher. Learn more about Jared on Twitter at @ReckJ.

If you are interested in purchasing for yourself or your library you can do so here

I received my hard copy of “A Short History of the Girl Next Door” from Blogging For Books in exchange for this honest review.

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