January 7, 2012

The Closer I Get • The Next Door Boys

The Next Door Boys book cover
The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Publication Date: October 8, 2011
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from Cedar Fort. This in no way affects the content of my review.]

With her body still recovering from last year's cancer treatments, Leigh Tressman is determined to be independent. Despite the interference from her overprotective brother, physical frustrations, and spiritual dilemmas— not to mention the ever expanding line of young men ready to fall in love with her— Leigh discovers what it actually means to stand on her own and learns that love can be found in unexpected but delightful places.

Obviously, if you read my blog regularly, you'll notice that I tend toward YA fantasy/paranormal books and historical romances. I've decided to try and remedy that by switching it up and reading a bit more books in different genres, like contemporary YA. When I caught sight of The Next Door Boys on NetGalley and read its synopsis, I thought it was intriguing and downloaded it right away.

I'm incredibly pleased with this book. It's a read that's simply compelling, very realistic and one that warmed my heart. Jolene B. Perry writes a convincing coming-of-age tale, focusing specifically on relationships and a personal experience with faith.

The Characters

The entirety of the novel revolves around Leigh, who is recovering from a bout with cancer. Though her body is still readjusting and her remission is hanging in the balance, Leigh is insistent on living life without her condition slowing her down one little bit. Her tenacity and will to live "normally" is admirable, as I personally see it as a positive attitude.

Throughout the book, we learn so much about Leigh and I found it quite easy to really like her character (though there was also a point I wanted to call her on something). She's compassionate, friendly, creative, smart and strong-willed. I liked that she had a way with people, including children, and that was fairly obvious throughout the book.

One of the most important things about her is her faith and her personal experience with it. I thought that Perry did a great job integrating this into the story without being too preachy. Instead of getting a theology or being preached at, we are allowed to watch her personal struggles, failings and overcoming hurdles when it comes to what she believes.

There are a few other notable characters in the novel including Jaron (Leigh's brother, who's overprotective, loving and strong in faith), Brian, Noah, Nathan, Meghan and Leigh's parents (who are quite notably present in the novel).

The Story

The wonderful thing about this book is that it is all about transformation. The novel begins with Leigh excited to make a new start at a new school where she will no longer be known as the girl with cancer, or by any other label. She goes from the careful, faithful, reflective Leigh to a Leigh who embraces love and relationships and her independence and ends up becoming a fuller, wiser, steadier version of Leigh towards the end of the novel.

This transformation is apparent in how Leigh regards romantic relationships, but there is also a special emphasis on family and friends as well.

The Writing Style

What I love most about this novel is that it happens to be quietly compelling, as I've already mentioned. The words are simple, but hit the crux of the matter immediately. Perry also has a gift for bringing to life well-defined characters and placing them in realistic situations, though there were a few moments that made me raise an eyebrow.

Personally, I say you should...

... read this novel if you're a fan of contemporary YA, and you don't mind discussions of faith. Though it does focus on finding love and personal discovery, it's also about finding faith and understanding the role that it plays in your life.


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