The Guy Next Door

Originally published in September 2004, on my original 52 Books blog. Slightly edited for length and to remove spoilers.

American title: The Boy Next Door
Author: Meggin Cabot
Year published: 2002
Pages: 392
Genre: Chick lit/romance
Where got: Public library

This book was recommended to me by an online friend. It was written by the author of The Princess Diaries.

The story:
Gossip columnist Melissa “Mel” Fuller is in danger of losing her job because she’s always late for work. As the book begins, she is late again, but this time she has an excuse: her elderly neighbour has been assaulted and Mel has had to call the police and then take care of the old lady’s pets, two cats and a Great Dane. Getting hold of the old lady’s heir, playboy photographer Max Friedlander, is hard, but finally she tracks him down in Florida where he is cavorting with a supermodel and has no intention of coming to New York to take care of his aunt’s pets. To make sure he doesn’t lose his inheritance if the old lady wakes up from her coma, Max calls in a favour from college buddy John Randolph Trent who reluctantly takes on the role of Max, moves into the old lady’s apartment and begins investigating the attack. He is immediately charmed by Mel, and before too long the two begin to fall in love.

Technique and plot:
This is an epistolatory novel, but, this being the age of computers, it takes the form of e-mails rather than the traditional letters. The form gets to be somewhat annoying at times, especially when it takes more time to read the to/from headers than a short message.

Although the book is nearly 400 pages, a lot of space is taken up by headers and spaces between e-mails, and it makes a fairly quick read. I estimate the reading time at about 3 hours, which is pretty good for such a long book.

The story falls somewhere between chick lit and romance. It starts slowly, but builds up speed quickly. There aren’t a lot of laughs in the first half of the book, but the second one makes up for it. There is an especially funny revenge scene, and and the the inter-office banter between the co-workers at the paper where Mel works is also quite funny. Most of the characters have distinctive voices, and the fashion reporter and the gay co-worker get some very funny lines, as do John’s pregnant and sex-starved sister in law and Mel’s mother with her old-fashioned advice.

Complaint #1:
OK, what is with Amazon? They classify this as a children’s book! The classification is probably based on the books that the author writes as Meg Cabot (the Princess Diaries), but sorry, the book is about people in their 20’s and 30’s doing adult things, including having sex. Fine for teenagers, but children – I don’t think so.

Complaint #2:
The Boy Next Door? Excuse me, he’s 35 years old!

3 stars. Would have got 4 if the e-mail form had not annoyed me so much.


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