Wednesday, August 2, 2017

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

Book info:
TitleA Short History of the Girl Next Door
Author:  Jared Reck
Genre:  YA contemporary
Release Date:  September 26th, 2017
Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House Teens
Source:  ARC received from Publisher for honest review
My rating: 5 stars


Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can't tell his best friend Tabby how he really feels about her, he implodes on the JV basketball team, and the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis's English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about pissed-off candy-cane lumberjacks. If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt's madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and would fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.
But that's not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse. After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, on the verge of spiraling out of control and losing everything that matters to him.
The portrayal of adolescence will make you laugh out loud, break your heart, and maybe teach you a thing or two about basketball. Fiercely funny, undeniably honest and overflowing with heart, A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a poignant tale of falling in love, overcoming tragedy, and ultimately, redemption that you’ll be glad to have read.

My review:
I actually just finished this book about 15 minutes before I started writing this review.  The tears are still there in my eyes, just thinking about the story makes them ready to fall again.  This story was incredible.  I might even say it is going to be one of the best that I will read this year.    I honestly finished and immediately thought of one of the teachers at my school that I can't wait to share this with, as well as it will be on my list of immediate purchases for my library budget this year.  The twist the story took at the end, the tragedy, I wasn't expecting it to be what it was.  I won't tell you, I'll let you read and find out for yourself.  

As a high school librarian, and a former teacher, I loved so much about the way the teachers were portrayed.  First, Mr. Ellis, the English teacher.  He is the embodiment of so many of the English teachers that I worked with throughout my teaching career.  The awesome assignments he had the students work on, especially the poetry unit, totally reminded me of the year I joined in with my 7th grade students to do the assignments they were being assigned by their English teacher, starting with writing poems.  The Friday poetry cafes that they had, well that goes to my co-librarian who was new last year, a former English teacher, who got a couple poetry cafes going in the library for our high school students.  Second, the science teacher, and the notes and packets and the way the class slowly changed from labs to mostly the packets and quizzes, etc.  I will have to raise my hand in shame at knowing there were years I went that way.  It happened when I had groups of students that I was unable to do labs with because of their behavior.  The thoughts Matt had about her, well I'm sure my students had those same thoughts those years.  Third, and finally, the students we got anecdotes about from Matt's classes, especially in his English class, the girl named Ilca.  I had students like the ones described, and like Mr. Ellis and Ilca, I remember being that sarcastic in dealing with them, and the other students being pretty much like Matt in how they responded.  I also loved all the references to the book by Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  So perfect for a book about a teenage boy.

The story started out with exactly how the synopsis spells out.  We got to see Matt and Tabby and their friendship.  We got to see the way that friendships change in high school.  The author shared the ups and downs between the two, and how things changed when one of them became romantically interested in someone outside their friendship, not knowing that the other felt that way about them.  And this wasn't a story where that new person wasn't really good for them.  No, Liam Branson, Tabby's boyfriend, was a really nice guy.  But Matt did a few things that were so realistic for a jealous teenage boy.  Making the list of the girls he would "do".  Accusing, but not actually coming out and actually accusing Tabby of doing anything with Liam.  

When the tragedy hits, things change really quick.  I felt just as stunned as Matt did.  And I totally felt for him.  I could see why he was so upset, and it irritated me that other's didn't realize why he felt that way. Not that they should, not everyone knew how things had been.  But the way Matt finally gets his "come to Jesus" moment, the way he finally begins his true grieving and facing the way he actually feels about the situation, not to mention what his grandpa tells him to help with this, all of those things are the tear-jerkers.  

I know that I will be thinking about this book for a long time, it will definitely stick with me.  I look forward to sharing this book with fellow teachers, my students, and customers at the bookstore where I work.  I hope that you add it to your TBR, and get the chance to read it soon.

About the Author:
Jared Reck (@reckj) is a debut author. He received a BA in English from Clemson University, a Masters in Educational Leadership, and recently earned a certification in Writing for Children & Young Adults. He lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, where he's an 8th grade Language Arts teacher.