Healing & Forgiveness: Next to You Book Review

by Theja Pk
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paperback of next to you by Hannah bonam young laying on top of open books

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Last updated on February 7th, 2024

This Next to You book review dives into Hannah Bonam-Young’s follow-up novel to Next Of Kin.

It surrounds the story of two friends who renovate a school bus into a home. But it’s also a story about grief, forgiveness, and learning to forgive ourselves for our past mistakes.

This book was my introduction to Hannah’s writing. And after falling in love with this one (I re-read this more times than I care to admit), I am adding every one of her books to my Amazon cart.

Next To You – Hannah Bonam-Young

5 out of 5
illustrated book cover of Next To You by Hannah Bonam-Young, depicting a woman on a man's shoulders, holding paint, with a garage background

GENRE: Contemporary Romance
PUB DATE: November 29, 2022
TROPES: friends to lovers
TWs: death of parent, grief


Great for readers who love swoon-worthy and authentic characters mixed with sarcastic comedy and a little HGTV action.

Characters
5 out of 5
Writing
5 out of 5
Plot
5 out of 5
Overall Enjoyment
5 out of 5
Table of contents

Synopsis

Lane is in the middle of an identity crisis. Her friends are all partnered up, her career is leading nowhere, and simply put, she’s not happy. So after a night out celebrating (drinking) on her birthday, she makes one hell of an impulsive purchase. A giant yellow forty-eight passenger school bus that she intends to make a home.

With little-to-no renovation experience but a large sum of inheritance money, Lane enlists the help of her friend Matt—a mechanic by trade, handyman by practice, and hottie by nature.

While their mutual attraction is undeniable, Matt and Lane have silently agreed that a friendship is the only thing that can ever exist between them. Matt’s a total family guy with “settle down with me” tattooed across his forehead, whereas Lane is entirely commitment-averse.

So when Matt offers to help her with the bus and in the bedroom with no strings attached, Lane’s feelings evolve faster than you can say “just good friends.” But she soon discovers that in order to do something new, she must first heal her past.

Characters

The MCs were a delight to get to know. I found myself rooting for them so much because Lane and Matt were two perfectly flawed characters who deserved just to be happy.

Their character development was done excellently – both were pushed outside their comfort zones and came out still seamlessly complimenting each other.

The supporting cast was hilarious and charming and balanced out the main storyline, which dealt with some serious issues (as stated above).

Lane

Lane is someone I would love to be friends with. She’s genuine and authentic, and her wry wit had me laughing so many times.

Even though she has those days where the anxiety and agoraphobia get to her, and she needs to be alone, if you need her, she’ll be the first to beat down the door to get to you.

Kudos to Hannah for the inclusion of diversity in making the female MC unapologetically bisexual (I don’t see many of those in novels) while still showing the societal objections towards this lifestyle.

One of my favorite things about her development is that she’s not entirely perfect by the end of the book. Not only because that’s less plausible but because it makes her someone most readers can easily relate to (I know I certainly did).

Sometimes it feels like everyone else has a script, and I’m doing improv.

Matt

Matt is one of my top book BFs of all time. He’s sweet and patient, and he loves Lane with all his heart. While Lane yields her wit as her weapon of choice, Matt will disarm you with his honesty (and his dirty talk).

The chapters involving his extended family added such warmth to the story that it left me smiling.

“I ask for every day you’re away to be added on to how long we will have together.”

With words like that, how could you not fall for him? #swoon.

Plot

Renovating a school bus into a home is a concept I was unfamiliar with. But learning about skoolies (the term for school buses turned into houses) was fascinating, to say the least.

I googled some images of actual school bus homes and was shocked at how unique and beautiful they looked. I even read that some skoolies can house an entire family of 5! 

The conflict in this book is about grief, forgiveness, and trusting ourselves to believe we are worthy of love. As a result, it broke my heart for the MCs because I was rooting so much for them.

But I’m glad that Lane was not shown to be a people-pleaser, and she stood up for herself when necessary. 

Overall, there were no open or unresolved plot lines, and the story progressed smoothly.

Writing

The writing made for an easy read with relatively short chapters. Dialogues and descriptions balanced each other well, and the story was so immersive that I finished this book in one sitting.

I’d pick up another book by Hannah, even if she wrote a genre I didn’t like.

Ps. For those who love steamy sex scenes – you will not be disappointed.

Bonus Epilogue

Hannah gives you the chance to grab the bonus epilogue chapters from the male MC’s POV at the end of both books in her Next Series. And if you thought the books left you smiling, wait till you read the bonus content. All you have to do is sign up for her newsletter to get access.

I loved this story so much that I messaged Hannah on her Instagram to thank her for writing such great stories. And she sent back such a sweet reply!

Best Quotes

  • I haven’t discovered religion since you left, but I can only describe what I’ve been doing in your absence as praying.
  • Happiness is like one of those places on an enchanted island, its gates guarded by dragons. One must fight to gain it.
  • grief… it’s really just all the love you want to give to the person you lost, building up until it hurts.
  • life is what you do between what you have to do.

Conclusion

If you love swoon-worthy, authentic characters mixed with sarcastic comedy and a little HGTV action, then Next to You by Hannah Bonam-Young is definitely for you.

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