ARC Review: I Spy the Boy Next Door by Samantha Armstrong

Goodreads: I Spy the Boy Next Door
Publish date: 25 May 2019
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Four p.m. spy sessions are the highlight of Mallory Taylor’s day. Observing the boy next door—one with a body and an attitude to match—has her perched beside her window so often it can’t be healthy.

When she finally convinces her mom to let her go to public school, Mallory comes face to face with her neighbor, Troy Parker. And he makes it clear he wants nothing to do with her. His rejection awakens a newfound tenacity and maybe even a touch of recklessness. But when Troy starts to show up when she needs him the most, Mallory can’t help but wonder if there’s more to him than he’s let on.

Taking chances, breaking rules, and following her heart is all new to Mallory. And no one warned her just how fickle hearts can be. When she discovers that Troy isn’t at all the guy she imagined him to be, secrets rise to the surface that will change her life forever.

When I first read the synopsis, I thought that it sounded like the perfect summer read. What’s not to love about a cute, young adult romance with a good girl and seemingly tough bad guy? It’s cheesy, cliched and sometimes, you just need a little ‘mindless’ fun to cleanse your palate after endless thrillers and heavier contemporary fiction reads. I was also intrigued that this was classified as both a mature young adult/new adult read. If I read this when I was in high school then maybe I would have loved it. As it is, I unfortunately didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped to. The plot felt all over the place and a key twist introduced towards the end surprised me but also left me feeling a little baffled/confused. There was so much going on here and I honestly don’t know where to start my review… The writing style, a mix of chat messages in between text, was easy and fun. This was a very light summer read that I think would be perfect for more mature young adults, probably in high school.

Having been homeschooled all her life, Mallory has led a sheltered life. After a kidnapping incident when she was a child, her parents become overprotective, so Mallory doesn’t have friends and is pretty naive. As a result of this incident, Mallory also frequently suffers from anxiety attacks. The highlight of the last five years has been getting to spy on her hot neighbour, Troy Parker. He rides a Harley, is completely tatted up, and has a body to thirst for, and Mallory basically lives for the moment she gets to watch him. When she’s in her last year of school, she manages to easily convinces her parents to let her go to public school so she can experience a normal student life. At school, she meets brooding Evie and exuberantly gay Jamie, and finally comes face-to-face with Troy, who is extremely hot/cold around her. Mallory also very quickly starts to become a wild child: sneaking out at night to go to illegal boxing matches, and wild house parties and getting completely wasted.

This is where things started to get really frustrating for me because it basically ended up being a book about Mallory’s obsession with Troy. I mean, I get it. I’ve been there too. I was a raging hormonal teenager who had all-consuming crushes that I couldn’t stop thinking about, and made me lose the ability to speak when they walked by; but I felt that this was next level cliche. I’m all for the cheese, but when Mallory describes how “Troy’s gaze pierces her and fills her soul with life”, it just got a bit too much for me. This was definitely steamier than most of the YA novels I’ve read (with the exception of SJM books) but the sexy scenes, and Mallory’s openly sexual thoughts, are the only reason this book could be qualified as NA. Otherwise, the characters were definitely way too YA.

I thought the characters also lacked depth–I wanted to know more about Jamie and Evie, and even about Mallory (beside her obsession). Her parents’ care and support was very sweet, although with how overprotective they were supposed to be, they very easily let her go and do her own thing, no questions asked. I got no hint of their overprotectiveness and paranoia, especially when Mallory was able to sneak out of her house the week of her first day of school? I also thought that the ‘plot twist’ really came from out of the blue. While I was pleasantly surprised by it, I was equally baffled about how this all made sense.

SPOILERS: one minute we’re deep into a love-story-obsession, and the next minute we get the FBI, witness protection, the Colombian drug cartel, a murderous rage born of jealousy, hundreds of thousands in hidden cash, and a shoot out. What?!

It was a little too far-fetched to be realistic, and I felt Armstrong really rushed the ending, trying to resolve everything in a very short amount of time. I personally thought that this book could have been much shorter than it was. There wasn’t much going on in the storyline until the end, and then it was like everything all at once. Overall, I had high hopes for this novel, but in the end it just wasn’t for me. Samantha Armstrong’s writing isn’t bad though, so I would maybe be interested to see what else she comes out with.

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Does this sound like something you might be interested in reading? It was published 25 May, so keep an eye out for it in stores/online!

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