This is a beautifully written story about faith, love, hope, family, uncertainty, overcoming adversity and accepting the life god has given you.
Leigh, the nineteen year old protagonist has ovarian cancer and is in remission when the story begins. She is still very weak from all of the treatments, but she is determined to go to college and live the life of a normal coed despite the apprehension of her protective parents.
Leigh is happy to be out from under the protective eyes of her parents. She moves in next door to her brother Jaron who keeps his eye on her thus alleviating some of their parents concern and worry. School is not as easy as Leigh hoped it would be as she is still recovering and gets weak easily. She finds herself overwhelmed with her studies and has trouble sleeping. Leigh wants to concentrate on school and her faith, but she makes time for sewing which is her passion. She doesn't have the strength for much more, especially a boyfriend.
Jaron's best friend and roommate, Brian is drawn to Leigh. He is not your typical college boy- at the age of twenty five, Brian is divorced and has a son. He struggles with his own inner demons as he has already experienced his fair share of life's difficulties. Everything about Leigh is special to Brian. He hopes it is time for his life to start working out for him. Brian sees so much goodness and light inside of Leigh. He is scared to let her know too much about his turbulent past so he keeps most of it a secret.
Can the two of them come together before it is too late? Will Leigh miss the opportunity to share love with the one person who has been falling in love with her since they met? Will they be doomed to another fated life?
This is a truly inspirational story of a girl accepting the life that she refused to come to terms with in the beginning. I really loved watching this friendship blossom over time into love. Jolene did an excellent job of building the romance between Leigh and Brian. This heartfelt story made me cry at times.
This is a very clean, refreshing story. This is not the type of story I usually read. I read mostly crime fiction, suspense and thrillers. I bought this book back in October, when it first came out, but I had so much going on in my life that I did not read it immediately. I have to admit not knowing that this was a Mormon or LDS fiction. If you like Christian fiction you will love this story, but even if that is not your genre preference, this book will surprise you. Don't be put off by the amount of religion in the first chapter. I almost was and I am so glad that I continued reading. This story would not have been the same without Leigh's powerful and unshakeable faith. Jolene Perry's story far exceeded my expectations. I am Jewish, but I enjoyed learning about this religion. One of my only complaints is that as a reader I did not have a good enough understanding of the Mormon faith to follow much of the terminology.
While on this subject, I have only two other problems with this otherwise excellent book. Some of the dialogue was weak. My only other issue deals with the character, Noah. For the most part, Jolene did an outstanding job of creating very believable, real , multi layered characters. Noah's actions concerning the breakup did not feel real to me. The way he handled this just seemed completely out of character with the character I felt I knew.
I absolutely loved Perry's creation of Leigh, who really evolves throughout the story and specifically when she comes to term with and accepts things that she refused to accept early on. At the end of the novel and the end of Leigh's character arc, she is at peace with her life. This is when I realized that this story could not have been told as poignantly without Leigh's true and unabiding devotion to her faith.
The plot was majestic. It was not too fast nor too slow. I especially liked the ending even though a fairytale happily ever after is not promised. I normally do not care for ambiguous endings where the author leaves it to the reader to draw their own conclusion. Jolene Perry's story is that rare exception. It takes a talented author in my opinion to effectivley pull this off. I like how Perry left the reader with just enough information to go on to allow us to reasonably conclude a happy ending. What is so spectacular is the reader's realization that there is more than one way to achieve a happy ending. When we accept the life that god has prepared for us, with any restrictions that may surface we can truly find peace and happiness. Faith and prayer give Leigh the ability to move forward with the life she has rather than living in the past, dwelling on what she cannot have.
I also enjoyed Jolene's beautiul and descriptive words. The imagery was powerful. This book left me thinking about how I would be-act-react if something this devistating happened to me. Would I have Leigh's faith and courage? Perry's work of fiction is incredible thought provoking. I thought to myself often through this book, "this could happen to me, my daughter, to any of us". Leigh has strong family support and her faith never waivered. I admired this character.
Jolene Perry wrote a fascinating story with an equally fascinating protagonist. This book is an enjoyable read with a powerful message that at times will pull your hearstrings. Leigh Tessman will impress you and she will work her way into your heart.
This was a refreshing break from YA paranormals.
THE NEXT DOOR BOYS, is well written, uplifting, rewarding and inspirational experience.
I highly recommend this novel to all young adult or adult contemporary fiction fans.
And be sure to visit Jolene Perry's blog Been Writing.