Matt is a freshman in high school. He plays JV Basketball, but is really hoping for a shot at varsity. He actually likes Honors English. His little brother Murray adores him. And he’s in love with the girl next door.
Tabby and Matt have been friends since Matt’s mom started watching Tabby while her dad worked. They started kindergarten together and never missed a night out trick or treating. Around 12 years old, Matt realized that she wasn’t just a friend. She was everything.
Freshman year when she started dating a senior on the basketball team, Matt wasn’t sure he could take it. She wanted to tell him all the ups and downs, but he couldn’t hear it. It strained their relationship for a while, until a drastic twist caused Matt to focus on what is really important.
Jared Reck’s novel for young adults reads pretty true. As the mom of a 13-year-old son, I enjoy finding books written from the male point of view. One of the elements of realism in this novel is swearing — and lots of it. Every word in the book is used, and not just occasionally. Because of that and some locker room talk, I don’t plan to hand it over to my 8th grade son, and honestly it feels like something for 10th grade and up, even though the characters are younger than that.
Matt is honest and funny and heartbreaking as he tries to figure out what his feelings are and what he should do with them. Basketball fans will be captured by his love for the game, while non-jocks might skim through some pages that are basketball heavy. The relationships here feel real (though I still wonder if male/female best friendships are anywhere as popular as in middle grade and young adult novels): mother/son, siblings, male friends, and are definitely a strength of the novel.
A Short History of the Girl Next Door will appeal to boys, and I’m glad for the male point of view in a young adult novel, but I think that girls will enjoy it as well, for that peek into the teen boy’s mind.