Seriously, how can you see a person nearly every day of your life and never think a thing of it, then all of a sudden, one day, it’s different?
Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her, and his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court.
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.
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4 / 5
A Short History of the Girl Next Door ripped out my poor unsuspecting heart and stomped all over it. I was expecting a slightly cliche novel that either follows movie plotlines and the nerdy guy gets the girl after other guys treat her like dirt, or one where the guy is all angsty but then finally makes peace with his unreturned feelings. Instead I got a totally novel and bold book that features an honest and heartbreaking portrayal of unrequited love (and loads of basketball!).
Matt Wainwright has two main problems. The first is that he wants to make varsity basketball but keeps losing his focus and his temper on the court; now his chances aren’t looking that great despite his religious practice regime. The second is that he is desperately in love with the girl over the road that he has known since childhood, Tabby, who in turn seems to be falling for Liam Branson, senior and all around great guy. Matt even thinks he’s great, which is even more infuriating to him because how is he going to get a chance now?
And what good does it do me to agonise over Liam Branson?
I found Matt super-relatable. He’s got a sweet relationship with his baby brother, Murray, loves basketball, gets on well with his family and particularly his adorable grandparents, and is pining for his childhood friend (been there, done that). He’s definitely flawed. He engages in locker room talk, isn’t the greatest friend to Tabby at times, is angry and bitter but also he really, really tries to make things right. He’s funny and tries really hard in English class and recognises when he makes bad decisions.
The first half of the book is typical high school stuff. Then there’s this massive, steamroller of a plot twist. I had a few ideas about what might happen, but I really didn’t expect it. No spoilers here, but prepare to bust the tissues out.
“I love you too.” I know we’re saying two different things, that her words don’t mean the same as mine
There were only a couple of things that I didn’t like that much. First off, Tabby and Liam’s relationship doesn’t get that much development, though this is understandable as we are viewing everything through Matt’s eyes. I’m not particularly familiar with American terms, but Tabby is a junior and Liam a senior, and it seems that Reck explicitly highlights their age difference but never really does anything with it? I thought for sure it would be a plot point, but it isn’t so why not just make them both the same age? And there’s a fair chunk of guys trash-talking women.
This book is primarily about emotional pain, but it was also full of love: Matt and his family were particularly delightful. A Short History of the Girl Next Door was raw and relatable and really tugged at my heartstrings.
My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book.