Gossip columnist and single New York City girl Mel lives lives in the most exciting place in the world, yet she's bored with her lovelife. But things get interesting fast when the old lady next door is nearly murdered. Mel starts paying closer attention to her neighbors—what exactly is going on with the cute boy next door? Has Mel found the love of her life—or a killer?
Time for me to review another one of my favourite romance reads, I love doing this - what an excuse to go back and re-read an old favourite. Meg Cabot is a name that most people associate with YA fiction, with her hugely successful Princess Diaries series, but she has, in fact, written several 'adult' series including the 'boy' series, the Heather Wells mysteries and the 'Queen of Babble' books.
Firstly, The Boy Next Door is a novel entirely made up of emails and while that might put some readers off I have to confess to a huge weakness for the epistolary novel. Reading through some reviews on Goodreads (of this and other favourite epistle based novels of mine) I've come across quite a few disparaging comments on the technique, most of which play along the lines of it being an easy out for the author or not show casing any literary talent, needless to say I could not disagree more.
I think the letter, or the email, is an excellent way to offer the reader an insight into the character's inner most thoughts and opinions, especially with the email as it is so informal. Yes, it is a bit easier to read than the 'traditional' novel, but in a way the book is stripped back, the author doesn't need to bombard the reader with endless scene setting descriptions but can present the reader with the character and let them, quite literally, speak for themselves.
Quite frankly I find this novel hysterical, I can't even begin to think of a quote to share with you as I think that there are far too many. All of the characters have a sharp and quick wit, the brevity of the email structure allows for some brilliant throw away lines that leave me in stitches. The romance between the two man characters is also particularly sweet. The email format of the novel allows for an easy transition between character narration and we get to see both sides of the romance develop.
Mel is a sweet small town girl trying to make it in the big city, endearingly guileless and optimistic yet without being annoyingly obtuse or cloying. John is the perfect foil to Mel, cuttingly sarcastic and charming with a wonderfully droll relationship with his family - in fact, the emails between John and his brother and sister-in-law may very well be my favourite in the book.
Cabot's book is entirely predictable, a traditional fairytale romance dragged into the computer era. However, the book is transformed from the formulaic with Cabot's trademark wit, plenty of laugh out loud moments and an entirely too entertaining cast of characters. First published in 2002 I did first read the novel as a teen, but I honestly think that the novel has got better with age. One of the facets of the novel that I particularly like is Mel's work as a gossip columnist allows Cabot to drop in numerous pop culture references that gain a particular humour when viewed in retrospect.
While admittedly not for everyone, The Boy Next Door is still one of the more amusing and sweet romances that I own and is sure to entertain anyone who wants a quick, light hearted read.
Let me know your thoughts on the epistolary novel below, if you've any favourites recommend me some good reads too!