The Girl Next Door

( 10 )

Overview

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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The Girl Next Door

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Barbara Allen
Sam and Jesse were your typical pair of best-friends-since-the-stroller teenagers. Jesse was a popular jock, dating only the most beautiful girls in school while being the star baseball player. Sam was his cute little misfit side-kick that was always fed up with whatever good looking, shallow creature Jesse was dating. But then the world comes apart at the seams when Jesse is diagnosed with a form of cancer that most likely will kill him and is given maybe a year to live. Jesse cuts off everyone from his former life except Sam. Sam begins to focus on Jesse and nothing else. She sleeps in his room because he is scared to die alone. She goes to Jesse's treatments since his mom can't be bothered. She lets her grades slip. She doesn't seem to care about anything but Jesse. He seems to be wasting away right in front of her and she is not about to let him go. Jesse has given up and Sam must convince him to keep trying for both their sakes. Jesse and Sam realize that they are in love and probably have been for a long time. Can Jesse find the strength to try for Sam? Can Sam live without him when the time comes? Can she deal with and continue her own life? Death is never an easy subject to relate to teenagers who believe that they are invincible. It is extremely difficult for an adult to channel the inner feelings of teenagers in this case, but Castrovilla captures the mind and soul of a teenage girl dealing with the loss of the greatest friend she has ever had and the love of her young life. Love, sex, and raw emotion come into play as Castrovilla sets the stage for a heartbreaking love story. Reviewer: Barbara Allen
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Jess should be enjoying his senior year of high school as class president, baseball star, and newspaper editor. Instead, he faces grim survival odds in his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Narrator Sam, the girl next door in their Manhattan building, is his best friend and constant companion. She seduces him so that he won't die a virgin, and they fall in love and cling to each moment together. Sam's devotion to Jess wreaks havoc on the rest of her life. She isolates herself from other friends, ditches school to accompany him to the hospital, and lets her grades plummet. When she talks Jess into trying an experimental treatment, his health briefly improves and he begins spending more time with his buddies and with an ex-girlfriend, which sparks Sam's intense jealousy. As if to prove his love, Jess proposes to Sam and, after bringing his mother around to the idea, the teens marry. Though there is never much hope for a happy ending, they learn some poignant lessons about faith, acceptance, and love. A subplot about Sam's grief for her father, who died on 9/11, adds depth to her character, but Jess's cold mother is much less believable and their wise housekeeper seems stereotypical. Gayle Forman's If I Stay (Dutton, 2009) and Lurlene McDaniel's Breathless (Delacorte, 2009) offer more nuanced depictions of both grief and illness, but this novel will hook reluctant readers with its emotional intensity and quick pacing.—Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934813157
  • Publisher: Westside Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 14 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Selene Castrovilla is an award-winning teen and children’s author with two teen novels and three children’s books. With an MFA in creative writing from New School University and a BA in English from NYU her awards include: an International Reading Association Notable Book, a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, a Galley Cat Best Book of the Year, a Gold Medal Moonbeam Book Award and a New School Chapbook Award. She lives on Long Island with her two sons. www.selenecastrovilla.com
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An emotional, and at times, sweet story about one teen's battle

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2013

    Panthertails den

    He lays on the graasy ground.

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  • Posted December 14, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Simply Amazing

    I borrowed this book from my local library and fell in love.
    Sam's strength when she sees the boy she loves wasting away is described perfectly to a 'T.'
    Selene Castrovilla isn't afraid to dredge up the emotions and thoughts of a typical teenage girl, even when those thoughts are so happy.
    I loved how the characters were developed, how realistic it was, and how heartbreakingly beautiful it was.
    The ending wasn't what I expected (or hoped for) but it fit.
    Selene Castrovilla, you did an amazing job with this book, and I can only hope you write more and more, and that someday I will write as well and beautifully as you do.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 7, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    the girl next door

    this was an amazing and heart-melting book. the love these two have was tangable i could literally feel their emotions while reading this book and i loved every page turning second!!!!! this book made me want to cry i loved the last sentence in the book. and you know when people say the best books stay with you after you turn the last page? well this is one of them.
    this book is a book everyone should read!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 25, 2011

    BOokWhisperer Review: The Girl Next Door

    Be prepared to cry your eyes out. It is a tragedy to view something so horrible as this young man struggles with such an aggressive and lethal cancer. Even more intriguing I love that way that the author not only shows the Jesse's progression of cancer and acceptance; but it also the acceptance and emotional progression for Sam. Sam and Jesse have been best friends and drawn to one another since they were toddler, but only once Jesse is diagnosised with Cancer do they realize what they truly mean to one another. The emotion level throughout this entire book is almost palpable, and the readers will feel the travel this emotional journey as if part of the story. The love presented by these two young adults was amazing. Most adult's don't see this level of dedication in a lifetime, but miraculousy it was gifted to these two young people that will not even get to cherish it for long. It was crazy to follow alone with a novel that pull my feelings so drastically; it was like if Sam was depressed I felt depressed, and if she had a glimpse of hope I felt that hope. This is a powerful and dramatic read that will touch its readers.

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  • Posted August 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A great sad story

    Girl Next Door is the more grown-up version of those really sad books everyone reads for a while in junior high. Death is more than a possible ending for this book; it is practically the setting and a main character as well. Jesse and his mother are, of course, consumed by Jesse's sickness, but so is their housekeeper Maria, Sam, and Sam's mother and little brother. Sam especially. She starts to fail out of school, she moves into Jesse's room, and she lets everything that is not Jesse fall to the wayside. She desperately wants Jesse to live, but she knows that it's very possible that she has years and years to catch up on things like high school while she may only have months (if she's lucky) to spend time with Jesse.

    It is unbearably sad.

    More sad than the situation itself is the way that Sam deals with it. She truly becomes a shell of herself, her sole purpose to make Jesse as happy and as comfortable as possible. The prime example of this, and one that causes more than a few problems for both Jess and Sam, is that she crawls into bed with him based on nothing more than her lifelong crush and Jesse's wish to not die a virgin. He doesn't fall in love with her until afterward. With that kind of a set-up, of course she doubts Jesse's feelings for her! She's available and willing to put out (and make sandwiches and clean when he pukes them up later) all the time. Even though her doubts linger for a whole lot of the book, Sam never backs up, sets boundaries, or ASKS Jesse about his feelings for her. She just clings to him all the more. When her mother finally notices that Sam has gone to the bad place over Jesse and over Jesse's illness and makes Sam see a therapist, Sam won't even go to his office without Jesse.

    Sam's so desperate throughout the whole book, not only to have Jesse live but to be Jesse's whole life the way he has become hers. To be honest, it made me uncomfortable. I wanted for someone, her mom, her therapist, Jesse, to make Sam see that she needed to be her own person in order to survive when Jesse may not. They all tried, but it never really sunk in. Even when things start to get a little bit better, Sam is still all about Jesse. Their relationship becomes more healthy than it is in the beginning, but Sam is never just Sam.

    Still, I don't know that teen readers will have the qualms about Sam that I do, and even with my worry for Sam and discomfort over the way she was portrayed, I was totally sucked into this story. I cried. And I would have eaten this book up when I was in junior high/early high school. It is a really good sad story.


    Book source: Review copy from publisher

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  • Posted August 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

    Are you a fan of Lurlene McDaniel? If so, then don't hesitate to pick up THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Selene Castrovilla. This is a heart-wrenching novel of young love.

    Sam(antha) and Jesse live next door to each other in a New York City apartment. They've lived next door ever since they were toddlers. They're best friends. And now, Jesse is battling a rare, terminal form of lymphoma. His prognosis for a cure is an optimistic 4%.

    Sam has always been in love with Jesse. But she's stood beside him as he became popular and winning at any sport he played. And she watched as he dated Ms. Perfect Cindy Evans. But they've remained friends. And now, as Jesse battles for his life, Sam is the only person he wants near him.

    Jesse's mom avoids him and anything to do with his illness. Sam is there by his side as he struggles through debilitating chemotherapy and nausea. She went from being an honor student to practically failing out. She can't concentrate on school, only wanting to be with Jesse twenty-four hours a day.

    As the story progresses, Jesse battles with his anger over his illness and loss of the life he loved. Sam struggles with her guilt and grief. Not only is she watching Jesse disappear in front of her, she is still mourning the loss of her father.

    THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a tear-jerker of a novel in the same vein as most of Ms. McDaniel's work. Ms. Castrovilla portrays the honest struggles of two teens dealing with issues that even those much older would have a hard time coping with. Both Jesse and Sam are hurting, but through it all, they know that they have each other to lean on.

    The story contains some mature content, dealing with some frank sexual situations. But the story is not repulsive. Quite the contrary. The situations are used to showcase the point of how fleeting life can be, and how one must live each day to the fullest while one can.

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  • Posted June 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Good Addiction Review

    A tale of love and loss, pain and healing, The Girl Next Door is an arresting read that carries its own black cloud. Launching right into the pain aspect of the story, the book opens after Jesse's cancer has ravaged his body. Enduring another round of chemo, Sam wakes up to hear him throwing up- again. The situation set up in this book is highly distinctive, as Sam stays with Jesse every night despite his mother's disapproval to ensure Jesse doesn't die alone.

    Sam's character changes dramatically throughout the book. Coming off initially strong, her fears and weaknesses are exposed as the story progresses. Flashbacks to the kids she and Jesse used to be are also prevalent, bringing to light how much has changed on account of Jesse's rapid digression. Sam is a highly flawed character but also holds plenty of strength and an empowering strength that is refreshing and memorable. Her story is painful but endearing, her character empathetic and struggling.

    Jesse is as radically shifted as Sam, a host of different personalities mixed within one boy and his daily state of health helps determine how weak or strong he is. Struggling with knowing he has just months to live and not even eighteen yet, seeing Jesse through Sam's eyes is a very rough part of this book to stomach. She loves him as the boy who lived next door all her life- her best friend and confidant. But as they spend more time together, the love she's held for him as more than friend is slowly returned, taking the entire situation to a new level. Jesse's character comes out strongly, showing just how intensely he can love but his desire to live is tarnished by the near constant pain he lives with.

    Jesse's prognosis is not good and no matter how great things seem to be going, the weight of the cancer is always present. Throughout the book, the reader will be wondering if Jesse will be that 4% to survive although no one has yet survived his particular kind of cancer. With everything stacked against him, Jesse still fights even when it seems hopeless. Though this is a tale of first love, there is no promise of a happy ending. As things progress, Sam's own mental state and ability to handle the situation is brought into question, casting a dramatic and heartbreaking light on an already dark tale.

    A small but well developed cast of characters, a brave but heartrending set up, and lithe writing make The Girl Next Door an emotional but striking read. Intermixing several elements, there is a beautiful mix of life and death, happiness and pain throughout the book. Teenage love and lust play a large part in this book but it is cast in a different light given the seemingly hopeless scenario. The related situations are handled maturely and fluidly, adding to the story overall. Decisions and actions that would be deemed objectionable in a different situation take on a new form and the entire plot plays out in a surprising, stunning manner.

    The final outcome is written exceptionally well, the entire story and last words reverberating for days after the book is put aside. The way Jesse's condition affects not only him but those around him is portrayed, as is both his and Sam's fight and desperation. This is a very moving and emotional read and a beautiful example of how one diagnosis can tear a world apart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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