The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This one is sweet, serene and heartwarming. We meet MC Leigh as she's starting her freshman year at BYU, a year later than intended. Although she's in remission from the ovarian cancer that sidelined her for that missing year, she's still not as strong as she might have hoped, and is anxious to put that experience, and peoples' oversolicitous reactions to it, behind her. Although Leigh came through her illness with her faith strengthened, and a hard won spiritual maturity, the whole ordeal left her family pretty freaked out. It really scared her mother, who seems to check up on her every few hours, and as a result, Leigh's not living in a dorm, as she'd hoped, but in an off-campus apartment, where her brother (not quite as overprotective as mom, but darn close) and his colorful band of roommates can keep a watchful eye over her from the house next door. And unfortunately, she sometimes seems to need it, as her desire for independence and "normalcy," lead her to push herself a bit too hard sometimes. She also has some trouble keeping her eye on the ball spiritually when handsome Noah, an aspiring actor, shows up and sweeps her off her feet a bit with his charm and good looks, and his family's affluent life style. Will Leigh be swept away by Mr. Charming Pants, or does God have something else planned for her, and her next door boys?
This is a lovely story, with lots of great elements. Leigh is an adorable girl, and pretty much everyone does. Adore her, that is. She's talented (sewing and singing), modest, kind of driven, and utterly oblivious to her considerable effect on the opposite sex. One thing that troubled me a bit about her was that she was almost too self-effacing, and others sometimes seemed to take advantage of that (cravats? at that point! c'mon, give her a break!) Her cluelessness on the fellas uptake leads to a slow-boiling plot development that seems obvious to everyone but her. But that's ok. Just like the Israelites wandered around for 40 odd years on a journey that allegedly only should take a few weeks, Leigh had some lessons to learn along the way. I realize now I'm making it sound a bit after school special-ish, but it's not, it's quite charming and fun, albeit lesiurely paced.
Another element I enjoyed about this book is that it is steeped in LDS culture. A lot of it wasn't very familiar to me, but it gave the book and Leigh an added depth and dimensionality, and was an interesting and real feeling look at a different and (as portrayeed herein) very appealing faith and way of life. Readers should be aware (as you've probably gathered by now) that this is an explicitly religious novel, and be prepared to accept and enjoy it for what it is.
All and all I really liked The Next Door Boys, and look forward to reading more by the talented Ms. Jolene B. Perry!
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