I almost didn’t read this book after the first couple of pages: I thought I knew where it was going, and didn’t feel like I was in the mood for it. After finally giving in and actually getting through it, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised in some areas, while still being disappointed in others. It was partially what I expected, but not entirely. There are some fun characters in here, and a nice balancing act of flirting between the concepts of “friend zone” and “unrequited love” occurs, but more on that later…
A Short History of the Girl Next Door is from the POV of a teenage boy named Matt, whose closest friend is a girl named Tabby who lives across the street from him, and has essentially been like a part of his own family since they were both young children. Matt’s main focuses these days are on basketball and of course, his underlying romantic feelings for Tabby, as well as his overactive brain which won’t let him get any rest in regards to any subject. But lo and behold, while Matt is harbouring feelings for Tabby that he’s never told her about, she has developed feelings for someone else. So now what is Matt to do? (Keep being her friend and he sad about your broken heart on your own time, dummy! Okay okay, I know when you’re feeling this, especially as a teen, it can not seem so simple…)
At it’s heart, this novel is about enduring friendships, and how our feelings for people can change over time. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s also very much about unrequited love, and how someone may choose to deal with that. Are you going to get angry? Tell them how you feel? Treat them differently? Pretend like everything is the same as always and continue to be their friend? Listen… there’s a fine line between the Friend Zone which makes your feelings the other person’s problem, and unrequited love which keeps your feelings as your own problem to deal with. And I think that in A Short History of the Girl Next Door, there is a slight lean towards the Friend Zone side of things, but this anger and potential ruining of a friendship because Matt isn’t getting more out of it than he may want (after having been happy with this for years) and the selfishness behind it is addressed. Things don’t always happen like in those rom-coms where the girl realizes she’s in love with the guy who has been her friend this whole time after discovering that her new fiancé is actually a douche so it’s not a hard choice to leave him or make a decision on which side of the love triangle to do for (but really, in all these cases, you wonder how the girl could have ever fallen for such a crappy guy in the first place? Come on now, sometimes it really is a hard choice or the new romantic partner really IS great for them!)
There is also, in this novel, a twist. Now, there really did need to be some change of pace or conflict introduced, as the novel seemed like it wasn’t per say going anywhere anytime soon before this moment happened, but ultimately I was disappointed by the twist and drama created by it. It’s something I have seen maybe once or twice before, so I won’t say I should have expected it, but I did have an inkling about what was going to happen before it did. And on the one hand, this change of pace created an opportunity to bring in some more themes regarding deeper human emotions, selfishness, relationships, etc, but on the other hand it also served to reduce Tabby’s voice and feelings even more in the overall arch of the story; she’s been an idolized vision of imperfect perfection for Matt from the beginning, and it felt like in the third act even more so.
So ultimately, I don’t know. There are some strong aspects to this novel, and it doesn’t per say go the way that most YA romances do, though some common trope-following still takes place. This isn’t per say a bad thing, but despite being pleasantly surprised by a few aspects, there were still a lot more that were very expected, and left me wanting more. Which is not to say that this novel wasn’t enjoyable in any sense, but it never really grabbed my attention fully.