Katie Van Ark
Contemporary Young Adult
Available January 6th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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?
The Boy Next Door is the type of story that has us periodically peering out our windows in the hope that a moving truck will magically appear across the street, bringing with it a cute boy our age whom we can admire from afar until we work up the courage to actually speak to him. Maddy and Gabe have it a little easier (relatively speaking) in that they’ve lived next door to one another their entire lives, but their longtime familiarity causes its own set of problems, the stakes if things don't work out quite a bit higher than awkward conversation or possible mortification.
Maddy has loved Gabe for as long as she can remember, but their skating partnership sees her firmly relegated to the friend category, forced to watch as Gabe tires of one girl after another in rapid succession without ever looking in her direction. Based on the synopsis, we can’t help but expect a rather slow build-up of tension, Maddy’s feelings gradually escaping the death grip she’s had on them for years and changing the nature of her relationship with Gabe both on and off the ice. Instead what we find is Maddy, thanks to a change in the program they skate, readily admitting her feelings early on and trying a variety of methods to encourage Gabe to take a chance on them, an action that results in an unexpected push and pull for nearly all of the first half.
Much of the push and pull is thanks to Gabe’s–not unfounded–fear that he’ll hurt Maddy if they try and make things work, his experience in communicating physically rather than verbally with most of his girlfriends coming back to bite him at the worst possible time. He wants to keep things with Maddy secret, something she understandably agrees to given the depth of her feelings, and we find ourselves both frustrated and hopeful in turn as the two of them struggle to deal with the emotional Pandora’s box they’ve opened. Gabe makes it difficult for us to really support his secretive bid to win Maddy over in the first half, his interest seemingly more physical than anything else despite his reassurances that he wants things with Maddy to be different, but in the second half he thankfully brings word and action into alignment and finally makes us believe in him.
Overall, The Boy Next Door is a bit of a messy read, things with Gabe and Maddy all over the place for majority of the book and their skating careers perhaps more on the periphery than we might like, but at the same time the messiness of their friendship and budding romance feels a whole lot like real life, and we can’t help but be drawn in by their many triumphs and failures.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.