Monday, January 12, 2015
Review: The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark
Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls.
Gabe can't imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.
But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?
Goodreads | Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review
I think I suffered from a bit from expectations vs. reality with this book. The Boy Next Door has a really adorable, romantic cover, a friends to more trope and is published under Macmillan’s Swoon Reads imprint. There is a certain promise of romance and swoon there that didn’t really pan out for me.
There’s a lot to like though so let me start there. I loved Maddy and Gabe’s friendship. They have an easy way about them, even when things get awkward as their relationship changes. Their long term partnership on the ice helps you feel their connection and understand why a romance might complicate that. I liked Maddy. She’s a very upfront, honest girl and I found her to be refreshing. I really loved the inclusion of family and active parents that were complex and interesting in their own right.
Where this book falters is with Gabe. Gabe fights his attraction to Maddy because he doesn’t want it to change their friendship. I get that. He also used to be a player and his feelings for Maddy are more than just sex and he just doesn’t know how to deal with more than the physical so he bumbles his way through most of the book. I think Van Ark wrote a way more honest depiction of a teenage boy than we usually get in YA. I see a lot of “why can’t *real* boys be like YA boys?” Um…because they're fictional. Real people screw up. Gabe makes a lot of mistakes and I’m ok with that. But…his lack of respect for and his actions towards Maddy – someone he’s supposed to care about – were just too much for me after a while. There wasn’t enough good to overcome the bad. I never really understood Maddy’s complete and total devotion to him. I get that she loves him but for me, as a reader, to believe in their romance and happy ending, I needed more from Gabe than a last minute big gesture. There isn’t enough to explain Gabe’s fears/behavior away or enough to explain why Maddy loves him to that level.
I think if you go into this book not expecting the big swoons you might like it more. It seemed to me that The Boy Next Door tried to have it both ways. It was a messy (realistic) relationship – but didn’t delve deep enough into the reasons, but also wanted that cute friends to more trope – that didn’t quite work because of Gabe’s actions.
Overall, a cute story but not quite a fluffy and romantic as advertised.