‘Dating the Boy Next Door’ by Michelle MacQueen and Ann Maree Craven is a wonderful sequel to the first book in the series. Nari and Avery, the two main characters, are written well, and it is quite nice to see how the way in which they interact with each other has changed since the accident that caused their friend Cooper’s death a couple of years back. While Avery disappeared into a world of popularity and athletics, Nari went on to be who she always was – a sweet, kind girl who has a lot of expectations heaped on her but wants more out of life than that. The thing is, Avery also wants more. He wants out of the town that took his friend and changed his father. While his dad used to be a professional football player and all-around good guy, his drinking has turned him into someone unrecognizable, and Avery is tired of dealing with it. Yet, he has to be there for his mother and younger brother, Nicky.
Nari’s friendship with Nicky, despite his being two years younger, grows while she finds herself separated from the friendship she once had with Avery. Despite being next door neighbors, she has watched him turn into someone he never was, dating the meanest girl in school, and avoiding the past he has tried to blame everyone for ever since losing Cooper.
When they find themselves thrust into situations in which they cannot avoid being together, Avery makes a deal with Nari that he’ll tutor her if she’ll kiss him and make his ex-girlfriend jealous. While Nari finds herself attracted to him, she tries to warn herself against doing anything with him. She knows it will all only end in upset for her. But, predictably (in a good way), she does turn to him for help, and she finds herself falling for him, despite her deep desire not to do so. And Avery, though Nari thinks he’s just trying to win his girlfriend back, is falling for her, too.
Their friendship and the surprises they have in store for each other, from her being in a band to him showing her his soft side even when she doesn’t want to believe it’s there, are perfect fodder for the two of them becoming friends again and finding their way back to the rest of the group that got torn apart on that fateful day when they lost Cooper.
A fantastic follow-up to ‘Dating My Best Friend,’ and featuring cameos by the characters from that book, Peyton and Cam, among others, ‘Dating the Boy Next Door’ delves into the themes of friendships lost and found, empathy, and internal struggles. Both Nari and Avery have issues they need to get past in order to move on with their lives and with each other. Their ability to work through these and find their way back to each other is one of the greatest parts of the book. Even though you think you know what’s coming, the reading journey is all so very worth it.
You can find ‘Dating the Boy Next Door’ by Michelle MacQueen and Ann Maree Craven here.
*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*