The Girl Next Door - Selene Castrovilla Full review originally posted on TotalTeenFiction as part of The Girl Next Door Blog Tour.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from A Book and a Latte PR in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour.

The Girl Next Door tells the story of Sam, whose best friend Jesse is dying of cancer. With time ticking away, the two of them must tackle their feelings for each other and make the best of the time they have together.

Now I'll admit, I love a sad book. I know some people can be put off about books which are going to tug at your heartstrings and turn you into an emotional wreck, but books that move me and tackle real, dark subjects are always high on my list. And The Girl Next Door is a sad book. The opening few chapters are quite bleak, and once I read that the main character Sam's dad is a 9/11 victim on top of the fact that her best friend is dying of cancer I was nervous. I knew this was going to be a tough book to read, but instantly I felt for the characters and the situation they're in and was able to get wrapped up in a powerful, emotional and heartwarming read.

The book is told from Sam's point of view, so we get to see how she deals with the prospect of losing her best friend. I liked that nothing was sugar-coated, and that we get to see the real low points of Sam's struggle. As well as tackling Jesse's cancer, the author has also taken on the issue of depression with Sam getting help to deal with her feelings about Jess dying. I was really glad to see that subject approached, and it made me really sympathise with Sam and what she is going through as well. I think it proved that sometimes you have to look after yourself and be selfish! I could relate personally to that situations, as I've been ill myself (although thankfully nothing as serious as cancer) and those around me have also felt the blow of having to live with and care for someone with a chronic illness. It's something that affects everyone.

But the book definitely isn't all bleak! At the end of the day it's a love story, and Sam and Jess have some incredibly sweet moments. I loved their little heart-to-hearts as they discuss their feelings for each other and the future, and their "seize the moment" attitude was something that really resonated with me. I always love a good friends to more-than-friends story. You can tell that Sam and Jess already have this amazing chemistry and trust between them. Plus there's some steamy scenes between the two of them. Jess is scared of dying a virgin, and so there's a fair few sex references/scenes in there. I thought they were really well done and it was so sweet seeing their relationship develop and the two of them really making the most of the time they have together.

One of the book's real strengths was definitely the characters. I loved Sam's mum who's a writer, and Maria, Jess's crazy housekeeper. Plus Sam's little brother Ted was adorable! He dresses up in his sister's clothes and plays with dolls. I want to see more characters like Ted who break the mold and are accepted for who they are. I also thought the strained relationship between Jess and his mum Gwen was a great plot line. She's really struggling to cope with Jesse's cancer and the two of them have never really been close. Seeing them facing some challenging circumstances really allowed the two characters to develop.

The Girl Next Door is quite a quick read, but the story and the characters really root themselves in your brain. I think you really come away from the story with an appreciation of life and those around you, and it makes you want to seize the moment and look out for yourself. Yes, it's sad, but there are some lovely uplifting scenes to balance it out. The writing was brilliant, and I'd definitely be interested in reading more by this author.

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