Published: June 2012
Samantha lives with her older sister, and a single mom who is a senator running for re-election. Their house is gorgeous, Sam attends an elite private school, and has summer jobs lined up to waitress and work as a lifeguard at the country club--all approved by mom. Next door, the Garrett family has eight kids who come and go at all hours and run wild in the yard--a disgrace as far as Sam's mother is concerned. Sam has watched them for years, peering out her upstairs window over the large fence that separates their yards. Then she meets Jace, the boy her age next door, and everything changes.
The Garrett's are unconventional, but they aren't the riff-raff her mother makes them out to be. Still, Sam keeps her friendship with Jace and the Garrett family a secret. Especially now that a smooth-talking, southern campaign manager has moved in on her mother, creating a shiny new image for her mother that Sam barely recognizes. With her mother gone more than ever to launch her campaign, Sam spends her time with Jace and his many siblings, enmeshed in their lives.
Sam has her own friends, a girl from her private school who has acted increasingly distant, and her twin brother who relies on drugs and alcohol to get through the day. Eventually, both of them end up involved with the Garrett family because of Sam's relationship with Jace. The subplots in this book are so well woven into the main story. I was really impressed by how well the characters worked together to create a deeper story. The incident in this book that brings about the real conflict is heartbreaking. I can hardly believe this is the author's debut novel. It's fantastic! I noted in the acknowledgements section that the author is an RWA member. This is how contemporary teen romance should be--a solid example of a great story with engaging characters. I hope you check it out!