One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.” The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase’s family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.
Samantha lives a seemingly charmed life. Her mother is a state senator in Connecticut and they have a comfortable lifestyle, thanks to her mother’s political career and trust fund. But, from the beginning, I felt that, despite her friends and her family, Samantha is lonely. She watches the big, boisterous family next door, the family her mother abhors because they’re loud, messy, and numerous. As Samantha watches the Garrett family from her roof, she is certain she isn’t being observed in return.
Jase Garrett is the third child of eight living next door to Samantha, though at first she can’t really tell which he is. When Jase climbs up to her roof and inserts himself into her ordered life, he also makes Samantha a part of his by bringing her into their home and being there for her in a way that her “friends” and family haven’t been.
Samantha’s sister is gone for the summer and Mrs. Reed is busier than normal with her career. Sam’s best friend, uber-competitive and type-A personality, Nan, is worried about her own relationship and academic career. Samantha’s other friend, Nan’s brother, Tim, is on a downward spiral and there is nothing that anyone can do about it because he doesn’t want help.
Samantha’s mother does not and never has liked the Garrett’s. She’s one of the people who would stop Mrs. Garrett in the grocery store to tell her how stupid/selfish she is to have so many kids, except she doesn’t deign to acknowledge them other than to look on them in disdain. Mrs. Reed is running for re-election and her new boyfriend/campaign manager is way too insightful and morally-deficient for anyone’s good.
Samantha’s new relationship with Jase and his family is a welcome distraction from all the loneliness of the summer. She becomes ingratiated in the Garretts and comes to love them all, especially Jase, but cannot bring herself to tell anyone else close to her about her new-found friends. She knows her mother would not like or allow this new relationship, but also that her friends wouldn’t exactly understand.
I really liked this book. I was sympathetic to Samantha and liked her because she wasn’t prejudiced just because her family was richer and more socially acceptable. Jase’s family was large and money was tight, but they had a love that was enviable and, like everyone else I know who’s read and loved this book, I loved this family. Samantha’s mother, on the other hand, was horrendous and I HATED HER. There was so much about her method of parenting and being a human being that I disliked, she seemed irredeemable and selfish. There is a lot of other things I liked about the book. Jase is swoon-worthy and sweet. There was so much about him to love. Tim was another character I really liked, despite his issues and his way of coping with those issues.
Then there were the auxiliary characters, Nan, Mrs. Reed’s boyfriend, Clay, and Jase’s family. All of them contributed to the story in a way that made Jase and Samantha closer, faster. But Samantha’s capacity to keep secrets really messes a lot of different things up. I understood the way she handled things, and probably would have done the same. In the end, I didn’t see a way out of the mess that would allow for a happy ending, which is always interesting when you’re reading a book. It’s the mark of a good author that they can find their way out of the corner they’ve painted themselves into, especially if the solution is believable.