A Short History of the Girl Next Door

30040068A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Publisher
First Published: September 26th, 2017
Publisher: Knopf BFYR
Recommended Age: 12+
Pacing: Normal
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Grief, Contemporary, Sports, Humor, Love


Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. 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.


What I learned from this book: unrequited love stories are not for readers like me who root for the underdogs.

Also, they can be extremely sad. While this is an engaging and humorous enough story, Matt’s unrequited romantic feelings for his neighbour that he keeps concealed made it impossible for me to imagine Matt and Tabby together.

Because it was obvious Tabby cared deeply for Matt, seeing that he was her best friend, but she was in love with another boy. And yet, Matt still hoped that someday she would change her mind and be his.

There’s nothing sadder than loving someone who will possibly never love you back. I’ve been in Matt’s situation and it’s awful. And since I’ve been in his situation, I understand the need to keep hoping—you know deep down that the person doesn’t love you, but you tell yourself that since they never actually said that to you directly, you still have a chance.

But you don’t, not really. Anyway, if I were able to picture Tabby and Matt together, I would have enjoyed this book more. Furthermore, Matt’s constant swearing annoyed me. I don’t mind swearing per se, but I don’t think swear words should become part of someone’s common vocabulary. It’s okay to swear if you’re feeling frustrated or exasperated, but Matt is the type of guy who swears at any given moment of the day. There are at least three swear words or words like ‘‘stupid’’ on each page. Some people won’t mind, but I did.

I actually did not mind Matt as a character overall. I adored his family—especially the cute little Murray—and consider it to be this book’s best feature. Had this story been about family dynamics, I would easily have given it a four-star rating.

But it’s not. The first part is about unrequited love, and the second part is about dealing with grief. Grief amplified Matt’s flaws. He became someone you couldn’t talk to without expecting some sort of outburst from him. I’m not sure I agree with the way the author dealt with it. Matt had support but his grieving felt very systematic.

It’s a cute-ish book that will conjure smiles on your face here and there, but not a book I would recommend about grief or to people (like me, apparently) who find unrequited love stories sad.


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