Cabot, M. (2002). The boy next door. New York: Avon.
Paperback $14.99, Kindle $10.00, 384 pages
Author’s Website and Interviews:
Annotation: Melissa Fuller couldn’t believe the elaborate lengths he went to deceive her and she questioned whether his feelings had ever been real.
Summary: The story is comprised solely of e-mail correspondence between the characters. It opens with an e-mail from Human Resources to Melissa Fuller who is a twenty seven year old gossip columnist who works for The New York Journal. It informs her that she is yet again tardy for work, her 37th one to be exact, and then the story transitions into e-mails to Melissa from her ex-boyfriend Aaron Spender, a senior columnist for The New York Journal, her boss George Sanchez, and her best friend Nadine who also works with her. Melissa is late for work yet again but this time with good reason. As she was leaving for work she notices her eighty year old neighbor Mrs. Friedlander’s dog Paco incessantly barking which is unusual for that time of morning. She realizes Mrs. Friedlander’s door is open and upon entering see’s Mrs. Friedlander lying on her carpet face down from an apparent attack. She is taken to the hospital and remains in a coma. Melissa takes it upon herself to be the sole caretaker of Mrs. Friedlander’s two cats and her dog Paco until she can reach her nephew, Max Friedlander. Once Max is contacted about his aunt, he calls in an over due favor from a college friend named John Tent, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Against his better judgement, John goes along with Max’s scheme and assumes his identity while Max is in Florida with her supermodel girlfriend Vivica. John doesn’t realize how much his lie will hurt those around him and how much he stands to lose.
Evaluation: I initially didn’t think I would like a story comprised solely of e-mail exchanges between the various characters but I found it made for a very quick and entertaining read. Although the story is more plot-driven in my opinion, I still felt like Cabot created engaging characters and provided enough background information for them which helped me to become more vested in them, especially the plight of Melissa and John. The writing is witty and humorous which I loved. I was a little disappointed by the ending as it felt rushed. I would have like to have seen more resolution for a few of the characters which to me were left hanging.
Genre: Chick Lit
Appeal Factors: Fast-paced, romantic, upbeat, engaging, experimental, and witty
Read-alike Titles and Authors:
- Getting to the Good Part, by Lolita Files
- One Fifth Avenue, by Candace Bushnell
- Revenge Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger
Awards: 2004-YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: Fiction
- Read some of the e-mails aloud with the reader/audience to make them feel more part of the story. Ask them questions about Meg or John to put them in their shoes. How would they react or have handled the situation?
Book Discussion Questions: http://www.bookclubgirl.com/book_club_girl/2012/05/its-meg-nificent-the-meg-cabot-read-along-discussion-of-our-first-book-the-boy-next-door.html (has some good discussion questions)
- What role did Dolly, George, and other office workers play in the story? Do you think they added or detracted from the story? Did they help give insight into any of the characters?
- Were you rooting for John and Melissa? Do you think his actions were forgivable?
- Were you surprised by who attacked Mrs. Friedlander or were you able to figure that out early on in the story? Do you think the ending provided closure or did you feel like Cabot left some lose ends, particularly with Nadine and Tom?
I selected this book because it was part of a book discussion led by my peers. I was intrigued by the fact that the story is told exclusively through a series of e-mail correspondences and I was curious to see how this influenced plot and character development.