I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark
Published by Swoon Reads on January 6th, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls.
Gabe can't imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.
But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?
Two things I love? Figure skating and best friend romances. So, obviously, when I heard about The Boy Next Door, it immediately went on my, “OH MY GOSH CAN I HAVE THIS NOW PLZ I AM READY FOR THE CUTE” list. *cough* Yeah, that’s a list that may or may not really exist. ANYWAY. Cute and romantic, sure, but this book ended up having a bit too much drama for my taste.
This story is told from the alternating perspectives of Maddy and Gabe, two figure skating partners and next door neighbors who have been close all their lives. From just the first couple chapters, however, you already know there’s more than that bubbling. Maddy’s had a crush on Gabe for forever, but Gabe is a chickenshit (seriously, he calls himself that) who denies his feelings for her in an attempt to keep their relationship “professional”. On top of that, Gabe has serious commitment issues, and his longest relationship (and there have been a lot – if you can even call them that) lasted two weeks. He’s a sleeze ball, to be honest. He’s hot, he knows it, he hooks up with almost every girl, and when he’s had enough of them, he breaks up with them by way of Maddy answering his phone and acting like a ditz. …Yeah.
Maybe by now you’re getting a sense of why this book didn’t really work for me: Gabe is just an asshole. Or well, he was, but then Maddy “changes” him. It’s so corny and sappy, I cannot even. But for the majority of the book he’s just a major chickenshit and he strings Maddy along, insisting that they need to keep their relationship a secret – even when their parents have them “pretend” to be in a relationship for the press to get some positive publicity. He’s scared because he has commitment issues. He’s scared because Maddy’s dad was a Navy SEAL. He’s scared because his parents pretty much directly told him not to get involved with her in that way. He’s scared because of what everyone else will think due to his reputation. Well you know what that makes you, Gabe? Not attractive. Not at all. It’s not endearing either. And I can’t believe that Maddy would put up with that for so long.
Maddy was quite a frustrating main character as well, though, because so much of her life revolves around Gabe. She can’t stop thinking about him for one second. She tries everything she can to seduce him, gets a little annoyed when he won’t make a move or commit, but then lets it slide and quickly forgives him each time. I didn’t understand why she was so in love with Gabe in the first place. Partly that would be because her feelings were already present before the book began – a technique that seldom works for me. But other than that, I just didn’t get it. She sees how noncommittal he is to every girl, but she’s just like, “Whatever!” I mean, their families are close and they have weekly dinner and game nights, so I guess they know each other way better – they even claim they’re best friends – but I didn’t really see that strong foundation. It didn’t make sense to me. Though, I will say I liked that she was the fearless one, both on the ice and in love, but her voice did little to nothing for me.
But fair enough: there were some swoons. Katie Van Ark can write some pretty decent kissing scenes, ngl. And it helps that this takes place over the holidays, so there are some lovely Christmas and New Year’s scenes that just made me feel pretty warm and toasty. When Gabe stops being a chickenshit, he even makes some romantic gestures that I can’t help but call cute. This is absolutely a romance novel and, though it’s more on the sappy and dramatic side than I would usually like, it was a light and comforting read on a wintery Sunday – that’s for sure.
I also liked the figure skating aspect. From what I can tell, it was pretty accurate, and if anything I loved seeing the passion that particularly Maddy has for the sport. There are strict practice schedules, competitions, choreography, artistry, all that good stuff. I did get a bit confused with all the terminology – that’s for sure. I can’t exactly just picture in my head what a triple axel and a triple throw salchow or whatever looks like, but eh. If anything, the book kind of rushed through the actual performance elements and perhaps those scenes could have been more vivid. But I did like how their performances tied into and reflected their emotional states, because that really is art.