Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Boys: A Review of The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry

My thought after finishing this book was "Did I just accidentally read an inspirational novel? Hmm..." I bring this up right off the bat, because I've gently turned down more than one recommendation or review request because I really don't do inspirational or religious novels. It's not that I have anything against religious people, quite the opposite. It's just that, being a wholly non-denominational believer (I always just say I'm open minded and leave it at that) I have trouble getting into the mindset of characters who believe very strongly in one particular thing. And I have trouble with plots that are affected in any way by religion. Usually.

But while Leigh is devotedly Mormon, and while the story never lets us forget that fact, she's so many other awesome things that I didn't mind the religious underpinnings. For one thing, she's a cancer survivor, trying to move on with her life despite the physical and emotional damage that cancer always does. Exhaustion. Anxiety. The harsh reality that she can no longer have children. She's attending college, living away from home for the first time. She has an overprotective brother, Jaron. She has decisions to make about her future career. And, of course, she's faced with a line of boys who seem eager to fall in love with her--and she's completely unprepared to deal with them.

Positive Comments

Perry captures what it means to be a cancer survivor spot on.When Leigh has to tell new people about her illness, I felt how painful and awkward that was for her. I felt her frustration with her physical weaknesses. Her struggle to come fully to terms with her infertility was heartbreaking. I could also relate to the strength and the faith that the experience left her with. It's made her wise. She's incredibly likeable, thoroughly developed, and easy to connect to emotionally.

I liked that Leigh had some obvious social...unawareness when it came to boys. They keep falling for her, and she doesn't get why. Throughout the course of the book, she dates a boy named Noah, who likes her for all of the wrong reasons. She can't see the relationship for what it really is. In the meantime, her brother's best friend Brian shows obvious romantic interest, and she's oblivious. I've seen this happen to a lot of girls, and I was impressed that the author was able to capture that experience so accurately.

I liked that Brian had not lived a perfect life. He's an ex soldier with tattoos, he works in a bar, he's a single dad. He doesn't quite fit the mold of the Mormon culture that he's entered, but he stays anyway. I think that's fantastic.

I liked the uneventful nature of the plot. Not much happens, and yet everything happens, because there's so much character developing to do. Occasionally, it's nice to see a book that tells a great story without drama or grand gestures.

Critical Comments.

Occasionally the focus on prayer perplexed and distracted me. This book was obviously written with a religious reader in mind, so it's not fair for me to complain. But this theme where things fall apart for Leigh when she fails to pray, and everything becomes clear when she does...I don't know, that strikes me as cheesie, and a cop out of a plot device. But, again, perhaps a religious person would love these themes in a book.

The ending struck me as woefully inconclusive. There's a lot of build up, not a lot of pay off. I wanted to catch some glimpse of what Leigh's life would be like now that she found her happy ending (beginning), and to have it end so abruptly was a disappointment. 


If you adamantly dislike religion in books, don't read this. If you like religion or feel neutrally toward it, this is a safe bet. It has a great, emotional journey for a young female character. It has a lot of heart. The romance is passable. 3.5 stars.

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