Hi friends! Welcome to my first book review. Although I would love to jump right into my thoughts on my first read, a few housekeeping things should be mentioned. First, all of my reviews will be spoiler-free. If I’m reviewing a book that’s not the first in the series, there might be moderate (or major) spoilers for prior books in said series, but I promise I won’t spoil anything for the current title.
Synopsis & Quick Thoughts
The Family Next Door is a contemporary fiction, mystery, domestic thriller blend that takes place in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. We follow three different families and their day-to-day lives and their struggles and demons behind closed doors. Our plot starts when a new neighbor, Isabelle, moves into the home next to our protagonist Essie. Not the stereotypical inhabitant of the neighborhood, Isabelle shakes things up and her bond with Essie becomes troubling.
Speaking candidly, I never expect much out of domestic thrillers. I go in with an open mind on each and every one, but I find most to follow a similar predictable storyline. Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoy them and find them to be fun, quick, engaging reads, but my expectations are always fairly low. As much as I feel like I’ve led you on for this to be an exception, I’m disappointed to say The Family Next Door is painfully average and even moderately disappointing.
Even though this book took me longer to finish than I expected, it was more for lack of time than ease of reading. Hepworth’s writing style is very digestible and straightforward, so each time I sat down to read I got through a quarter of the book. The book is told from multiple POVs, and each character’s storyline is interesting enough to make me excited for each new chapter. Normally I find with stories that there are one or two subplots that I dread reading when they show up, but that wasn’t the case with The Family Next Door. There were even a couple moments that had me on the edge of my seat (not in a thriller or suspense sort of way, per se, but just in an excitement to keep reading).
The main issue with this book was the near realization of some really cool and thrilling plotlines, and the deliberate choice to not pursue them. There were a number of lines placed by the author trying to draw the reader off the scent of the reveal. Now, hear me out. I love a good red herring. However, it’s not a good thing when those false plotlines are better than the actual reveal. There were some truly thrilling moments in the book that ended up being a total fake-out, with the real “twist” being incredibly anti-climactic and rather boring. The more I think about the ending to this novel, the more I dislike it. The author didn’t do anything poorly within the plot that does play out over the course of the book, but the wasted plot potential put a damper on my reading experience.
Rating & Final Thoughts
All in all, I give The Family Next Door a 2.5 out of 5 stars. It was a fast read and pretty mindless and enjoyable, but the final reveal was disappointing compared to the possibilities suggested throughout the book. If you need a book to read by the pool on a hot summer day, or one to pass the time on a cross-country flight, maybe look into this one. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for someone looking for a true domestic thriller, although it’s labelled as such; I think it fits a contemporary fiction category a little better. I have another book by Sally Hepworth on my bookshelf and am still looking forward to reading it in hopes of a more suspenseful experience, but overall, The Family Next Door was a moderate letdown.
Buy The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth here.