“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.“
I went into A Short History of the Girl Next Door having almost no idea what it was about, but high expectations based on the buzz around this book. I just assumed, naturally, that it was about a girl next door and subsequently, a love story. It is, in fact, both of those things, but it’s not your everyday run-of-the-mill teenage romance where, despite all obstacles, the main characters figure things out in the end and kiss passionately before proceeding to their happy ending.
Those things only happen in Matt’s head. One of the things I loved most about this story was that it was full of clichés, but they appeared mostly in Matt’s thoughts, and sarcastically at that. Matt resents the “overdramatic movie director in his head” who controls his thoughts and fills his mind with hopelessly theatrical scenes.
Matt is in love with his best friend, and in typical movie fashion, Tabby is oblivious to those feelings and opts to date a popular senior guy instead, and Matt is crushed. That storyline itself didn’t bother me—though it is a little overused in contemporary fiction—but I found it difficult to empathize with Matt’s love for Tabby, as her character is the most underdeveloped in the whole story. I felt like the only thing the reader really knows about her is that she has red hair and likes Nerds, and two boys love her. Her and Matt’s backstory was enough to make the story cute, but it sometimes felt like a story about a boy who is in love with a cardboard cutout of a girl rather than an actual, three-dimensional human.
When I started this book and realized it was about basketball, my hope that I would like it faded away almost instantly. I don’t mind basketball itself or occasional mentions of sports in books, but I tend to stay away from stories where sports are the main focus of the plot. It tends to breed characters that have no depth beyond the stereotypical dedicated athlete, but I was pleased to find that this wasn’t the case with Matt. Even though basketball is one of the most important things to him, and he is especially good at it for only a freshman in high school, the development of his character is more centered around his humor and his relationships than simply one of his hobbies.
The story is full of shocking twists and turns that you don’t see coming, but I can’t say more than that without ruining the story. I’m happy I had no inkling of the direction the story would turn in as I read because it made the rollercoaster ride that is this book that much more enjoyable.
Overall, this story isn’t what I expected it to be. Where I thought I’d find another love story like every other in the world of young adult fiction, I found a story that embraces clichés while giving them a new twist. The humor and sarcasm dripping on every page kept my interest, and this was one of those stories that remind me why I love to read. Jared Reck did a great job crafting this story, and I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read full of humor and emotion.
I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.