Title: THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
Author: Selene Castrovilla
Publication Date: May 24, 2013
Description: Two teens are forced to make some very grown-up decisions when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer, twisting them into an unpredictable nightmare.
Best friends since toddlerhood, Samantha and Jesse grapple with the realization that they are actually in love. What now? Beautifully written while handling a very heavy topic, Castrovilla addresses the universal question: In a world where the worst can strike at any time, how can we ever feel safe?
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I'd like to thank the author for providing me with a digital of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
NIGHTSTAND WORTHY +2
My Splats: an emotional, and at times, sweet story about one teen's battle with cancer and struggle whether to keep fighting through the gentle eyes of his best friend and soul mate.
My stomach quivered at the thought of writing down my observations of this story. Not because I didn't have an opinion or recommendation. It was what happened to me as I read this endearing tale about Samantha and Jesse--two teens dealt a crappy hand of fate that most of us would shun and run from. They handled it with grace and dignity, but also rawness and pain. They bled before the reader and fought and cried and laughed and ... eventually, hoped. Even though they both knew the slimmest sliver of hope was available to them.
The story is written from Sam's point-of-view. She's conflicted, for numerous reasons. Her BFF, who happens to be the boy-next-door (making her the-girl-next-door aka title of the book), has been her playmate since before she can remember. Actually, she does remember an elevator incident when she and Jesse were two years old. But you'll have to read the story to find out about that.
As the story progresses, Sam gives Jesse worth, value. She's a young caregiver, a silent-suffering-servant, who selflessly cares for Jesse. He's what most guys want to be at age seventeen: bright, handsome, fit, and a great athlete. He's really a man in the making. But the diagnosis of cancer erases all of that like a tsunami hitting a delicate sandy beach, and yes, pretty much wiping me out too.
Sweet and caring scenes reveal a deep connection of friendship that has always been between Sam and Jesse--a gem among stones. But there relationship is not without hurdles. As Jesse tries to find peace in his plight, Sam contemplates belief and how different people concentrate on different faiths. (She's suffered her own losses in her family life.) She wonders lots of things I believe conflict young adults, as well as adults. I enjoyed how Castrovilla explored both sides of both main characters' inner struggles--interior emotions through action. The dialog was refreshingly real and honest, most passages plunking my heart strings with increasing intensity.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the involvement of both teens' mothers. The contrast in relationships between Sam and her mother, and Jesse and his mother is a great parent/child analysis in play. And it could have been fathers; it wouldn't have mattered. It was nice to see a parent involved and both types of dynamics examined. Ooh, and Samantha has a little brother to die for. He's hilarious--a drag queen in the making. His character gave a diversity to the story, as well as a break from the serious health subject a hand.
Honestly, there is just too much to say about the emotional value and span of this story. Just read it.
A few comments, before I introduce Selene, to give you a idea of the depth of this story.
“With occasional subtle humor, Castrovilla avoids melodrama as Jesse and Sam both deal with their anger, fear, jealousy, and insecurities; learn to take care of themselves while taking care of each other; and explore and find faith and peace in an uncontrollable world. Reminiscent of Lurlene McDaniel’s novels, this look at first love is at once heartrending and healing.” — Booklist Online
“THE GIRL NEXT DOOR author, Selene Castrovilla, has written a fine Teen novel dealing with love between a dying boy and his girlfriend. Selene's writing is crisp and tight and teens (especially girls) will quickly become immersed in her story about friendship, commitment, loss and facing life's realities. THE GIRL NEXT DOOR tells a bittersweet tale between two teens who must carve a full-fledged relationship from a small allotment of time, learning about each other and themselves along the way. Readers who like this genre of fiction will love this book!” — Lurlene McDaniel, author of DON’T DIE, MY LOVE
Welcome, Selene. I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to have you here. I'd like to concentrate on you, the YA writer.
From writing this book as well as your others, what would you say are the three most important elements of writing?
The first thing is to start. This may sound like a joke, but it's not. It took me years to get past my fears and commit to the task of writing my first novel. And even then, I stalled for quite some time "planning" it. To me, the way to write a novel is to write it. Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. There's no other way.
The second thing is to know your end. How can you arrive at a destination if you don't know where you're going? Some people say they just write and it works out, but this is not the case for me. Of course, I allow myself the option of changing the end once I get there. But I never have. I begin at point A, determine where point B will be, and set a course toward it.
The third crucial thing is allowing yourself to write, as Anne Lamott put it, the shitty first draft. You have to put down whatever comes out onto the page, even if it makes you cringe as you type. Revision comes later. That's when all the pretty descriptions and sensory details are born. First you have to flesh out plot.
I love how you mentioned about knowing your ending. It totally gives direction.
Give us some insight into who you are by using five fruits/veges, TV shows/movies, or a combination of both.
I am a quirky, romantic believer in fate like the characters in Serendipity, an observer of life's absurdities like Michael on Arrested Development, cynically funny like Mary on In Plain Sight, I have many layers like an artichoke and, unfortunately, I am shaped like a pear.
You're on a deserted island and all you have with you is a book. Which book and why?
I would want to have The Catcher in the Rye with me on a desert island, because that's a book that never gets old. I sometimes open it up and read just a paragraph for inspiration. I've read it at various times of my life, and it has affected me in different ways. I read it to examine craft, and also for pure pleasure. I'll never be alone if I have Holden Caulfield alongside.
I can't end this without mentioning your fantastic book THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. Could you describe it in 140 characters or less?
“Death can never rob us of the love we give away.” This is the message of The Girl Next Door, a bittersweet romance in which two teens discover love as one battles cancer.
Now that is a statement. And once you all read it, you'll understand why. Yes, I'm about to cry again. I just loved Samantha and Jessie.
*Foundation Link* To let Selene know about a donation, please write to her on my Website.
Selene Castrovilla is an award-winning teen and children’s author who believes that through all trends, humanity remains at the core of literature. She is the author of Saved By the Music and The Girl Next Door, teen novels originally published by WestSide Books and now available digitally through ASD Publishing. Her third children’s book with Calkins Creek Books, Revolutionary Friends, was released in April. She is also a contributing author to UncommonYA. Selene holds an MFA in creative writing from New School University and a BA in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons. Visit her website www.SeleneCastrovilla.
com for book excerpts and more information!
One last thing, if some of you would--not for me, but for Selene--share this post in as many social media outlets as you have available to you. I think what she is doing is so honorable. It would be great if we could partake just a little in helping her get the word out to help young adults fight cancer. Thank you...