Good-girl Samantha finds herself when she falls for the boy next door.
Her perfectionist, state-senator mother hasn't forgiven "those Garretts" for moving next door 10 years ago. The burgeoning family (seven children by the time Samantha turns 17) is white trash as far as she's concerned. But Samantha finds herself fascinated, watching the messy, boisterous family from the roof outside her window. When gorgeous Jase climbs up to talk to her one night, she begins to loosen her emotional stays for the first time in her life. Fitzpatrick delivers an almost perfect summer romance: The way Jase woos Samantha—gently, with humor, patience and a joint trip to CVS to pick out condoms—will have every girl who reads the novel wishing for a Jase of her own. His family is equally beguiling, a dramatic foil for Samantha's sterile life with her campaigning mother. The story unfolds slowly, Samantha's present-tense narration smart, funny and mildly astonished at the changes wrought by her new relationship. The leisurely pace encompasses a subplot in which one of Sam's oldest friends, now an alcoholic and drug addict, begins his healing at the hands of the Garretts as well. Everything's going so well that readers will feel as sucker punched as the characters when catastrophe strikes.
Though the resolution is rushed, it is also satisfying—just as satisfying as Sam and Jase's first night together. (Fiction. 14 & up)