Monday, March 2, 2009

The Boys Next Door

The Boys Next Door
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: June, 2007

This book is not part of a series.

The story described on the back cover blurb held so much promise. Lori has grown up on the shores of a small lake, next door to three brothers whose family owns the local marina. They spend their summers working at the marina and wakeboarding their way back and forth across the lake. As Lori has grown older, her crush on middle brother Sean has grown proportionately. And through the years, her friendship with youngest brother Adam has become rock solid.

Finally, Lori has reached the critical mass of maturity and bodily development that she thinks she has a chance at making Sean see her as dating potential instead of just a tag along tomboy little sister type. Over the course of the summer's first new weeks, she employs all of the standard femme fatale tricks to gain Sean's attention, most of which involve exposing her newly developed body for all and sundry to admire. Too, she believes for some convoluted reason that pretending to have a thing for Adam will make Sean jealous enough that he'll go for her. All the while, she seems oblivious that the attentions Adam is showing her might mean his feelings run deeper than mere friendship.

At this point I'm sure it doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to figure out that Adam is, in fact, the right boy for her in all ways. Why it takes Lori the course of 300 plus pages is beyond me.
I have to confess right here that I did not finish this book. I gave it the old college try - got through seven whole chapters and skimmed the rest of the book before the poor writing overcame any resolve I had and knocked me out once and for all.

Because the writing is just plain bad. Not only were there numerous type-Os that did not get corrected in the copy editing stage, but sentences were so awkwardly worded they actually reminded me of something a fifteen year old might write.

But I should back up. My first problem with this book came in the form of the narrative. The story is told in the first person via protagonist Lori's viewpoint. Her thoughts are so scattered, I felt like I actually was inside the head of a fifteen year old girl. You might think this is a good thing, that the author really captured the narrator's voice. Not so much. It was simply hard to read.

Unfortunately, this scattershot approach extended to the dialog as well. The conversations took such sharp turns away from the original topic that I wondered if some of the text hadn't been dropped during the printing process. It felt much like the writer had an agenda to accomplish during each instance of character interaction, a number of plot points she had to establish, and whether or not they fit into that particular conversation didn't matter.

Too, I had to wonder about the intelligence of Lori as she's portrayed. At one point, Lori, who has lived next door to the Vader brothers her entire life and has supposedly spent a lot of time at their home, shows up to attend a party at the Vader house. She rings the doorbell, and when no one answers the door, she looks for security cameras. Wouldn't she know if the Vaders used a high tech security system? In fact, if she's so comfortable with this family and she knows they are having a huge party, wouldn't she just knock and walk on in and join the festivities?

Lori also had a habit of mistaking the two male leads of the story - brothers Sean and Adam. More than once Lori thought she was dealing with Sean only to realize it was Adam whom she was caressing or admiring. Even if these two boys looked so similar, I still find it hard to believe that a girl who has known these guys since early childhood wouldn't be able to tell them apart fairly easily.

Another issue I had was the animosity between brothers Sean and Adam. Now, I know brothers fight with each other. But these two boys really seem to hate each other. They verbally slam each other and physically pound out their frustrations on each other's faces. Again, this isn't necessarily a problem, per se, if the tone of this book wasn't that of a light-hearted romantic comedy. We are supposed to find this amusing. If that's the case, then I would have expected at the very least an undercurrent implying that the brothers really do care for each other and that most of their animosity is of the teasing variety. The portrayal didn't fit the tone of the story, much like finding a sardine in the middle of your hot fudge sundae.

Perhaps I'm the wrong audience for this book, given that I'm far from my teen years. However, I would argue that this is not the reason for my dislike of this book. The story itself is passable - what a fabulous premise. Who wouldn't love living next door to two gorgeous hotties and appreciate the fantasy of them falling in love with her? I'm there. But the writing was so awful I couldn't ignore it to focus on anything else. Since I know that there are many, many YA romances out there that do not have this problem, I can't simply chalk it up to an issue I have with the genre.

I wanted to like this book. Heck, I bought it.

Rating: Didn't Finish

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