Release Date: August 18, 2015
Source: eARC via First to Read
Published by: Dial (Penguin)
A surprising, utterly romantic companion to My Life Next Door—great for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han
Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the liquor cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house
Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.
For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.
Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.
And Alice is caught in the middle.
Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this novel is for readers of The Spectacular Now, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Paper Towns.
This was interesting and not quite what I had expected - not in a bad way, just surprising. I hadn't read the synopsis before reading the book, and a certain plot twist took me completely by surprise despite the hint above. I actually think that if possible, if you haven't already looked at that synopsis or the rest of this review, well, going in blind may increase the suspense and your enjoyment of the various plot twists.
Okay, so first off, Tim's voice is really, really distinctive in this novel. Huntley Fitzpatrick gets a lot of props from me for writing someone on the verge of a million bad behaviors but who has his own distinctive humor and character arc. What happens to Tim the alcoholic in The Boy Most Likely To is a lot more emotionally satisfying than the character arc for The Spectacular Now (a comparison title) because there's actual growth. We start off the novel with Tim going to meet the "Nowhere Man," which you learn is Tim's father, and it's quite the hook: if Mr. Mason can't see Tim becoming anything else but a failure, should we? (Of course). It took me a while to get connected to Tim (despite being interested in the course of his redemption / character arc) compared to Samantha and Jase -- because I'm essentially more like them -- but then you really get to know Tim in a way that maybe you didn't for Sam and Jase; the ups and downs are much more extreme. The kid goes from failing at various things (getting expelled from many schools, etc.) to exceeding the expectations most people have of him to nearly breaking his own self-imposed limits multiple times to making everyone laugh because flippancy is his self-defense mechanism. But above all, what Huntley Fitzpatrick introduced for his character does wonders.
I also had a harder time connecting to Alice than Samantha and Jase, and part of that is because I didn't actually really remember her from My Life Next Door. Tim was one of the main side characters. So was Nan and Sam's mom (+ political adviser) and the Garretts as a whole. And here, though Alice has her own character arc and plot twist to handle, the book is still named after Tim in the way that My Life Next Door focused on Sam. But in the end, like what happened with Tim, Alice also grew on me and the moments she and Tim spend together are greater than the ones they spend apart. Unsurprisingly, Huntley Fitzpatrick excelled at showing their chemistry. (There's also no worries about the first person narratives - not only do the voices sound unique, but the book also prints Alice and Tim in different fonts).
The Garretts, as always, are the charming backdrop, providing much needed humor and stability for the characters and us readers. When all goes bad, all you have to do is make sure you don't frighten George. You also get more time with the Garretts than what I remembered from My Life Next Door, so the characters actually feel more fleshed out (Harry/Duff/Patsy/George/etc.) as well as their relationships with one another. Nan and the Masons are also fleshed out, and it provides a nice contrast between the three different families and their cultures - Reed, Mason, and Garretts (plus the people Tim knows from his AA meetings - 'you can find family in unexpected places,' one character says (or something similar, if not exactly that)).
Although I liked My Left Next Door more -- because I am more like Jase/Sam and I would take Jase over Tim lol any day -- I'm pretty sure that fans of MLND will love this sequel and the rising stakes that have been laid. It has a very similar tone to MLND: introducing serious issues to further character development but including plenty of sexy and summer-worthy twists beside humorous interactions with the Garretts for a well-rounded read. Don't make Mr. Mason's mistake, and give Tim a chance this summer.