Katie Van Ark, The Boy Next Door
Maddy and Gabe have been next-door neighbors, best friends, and figure skating partners for basically their entire lives. They’re a talented duo, and Maddy is determined to make it all the way to the Olympics. She’s also determined to make Gabe wake up and realize that they would be perfect partners off the ice as well. But Gabe is a player, hooking up with lots of girls and ditching them after two weeks, often getting Maddy to dump them on his behalf. He cares deeply for Maddy — even more than he wants to admit to himself — but he’s trying to think of her as a sister, because he doesn’t want to mess up the relationship and partnership that they already have. Unfortunately, their skating coach is making them learn a new routine inspired by Romeo and Juliet, which only intensifies their complicated feelings for each other. As Maddy and Gabe struggle with the shifting boundaries of their relationship, they also worry about how a potential romance will affect their chances of success on the ice.
As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not someone who believes that adults should steer clear of young adult books. I read lots of YA, and lots of it is very good. But as I read this book, I couldn’t help feeling that I was a bit too old for this type of romantic angst. Despite Gabe’s initial protests, the romance between him and Maddy heats up very quickly, and by the end of the book, they’re even talking about getting engaged — while still in high school. The novel presents this as romantic, but to me, it made both characters seem so naive and immature. (I apologize if this offends anyone. I certainly do think it’s possible for high-school sweethearts to have healthy, long-lasting marriages. But in this case, let’s just say I wasn’t convinced.) I also think the author missed a few opportunities to add depth to her characters. In particular, it’s clear that Gabe isn’t as motivated to become an Olympic figure skater as Maddy, and at one point he expresses an interest in becoming an architect. Having him struggle more with his life path, and perhaps even having him argue with Maddy about it, would have made his character more interesting. Unfortunately, the book instead reduces both him and Maddy to flat characters who embody all the stereotypes of teen romance. It was a light, fast-moving read, but I was definitely less than impressed.
2 thoughts on “Review: The Boy Next Door”
I haven’t read this particular book, but have definitely felt the same way about romance in other YA books I’ve picked up. I have no problem with adults reading YA and some of my favorite books (Ari and Dante, The Book Thief) fall in this category, but some of it can just feel too young.
Sometimes I feel like Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon.” https://youtu.be/oO3YmT2d-8k