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“You don’t get judged solely by your worst moments,” Grampa Wainwright. —A Short History of the Girl Next Door

A Short History of the Girl Next Door

by Jared Reck
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Matt and Tabby have been best friends almost since birth. When Matt and Tabby enter high school, Tabby starts dating a senior basketball player and makes other friends. Because of Tabby’s other friends, Matt struggles to understand his place in his best friend’s life. He also tries to make sense of his feelings for her, all while trying to be the best basketball player on the junior varsity team. Then tragedy strikes. Matt’s world is turned upside-down, and he has to piece himself back together.

A Short History of the Girl Next Door surrounds Matt and Tabby’s friendship, basketball, and the tragedy that strikes their community. Matt loves Tabby, and losing her to senior basketball star and school golden boy, Liam Branson, is unbearable. Much of Matt’s life and his memories include Tabby, so when she and her father suddenly died in a car accident, Matt has to figure out how to deal with all his feelings. Although Matt, who narrates the story, sometimes can come off as petulant, his personal growth at the end of the story is commendable.

With the help of his family and basketball, Matt makes peace with Tabby’s death and apologizes to the people he’s hurt. The book deals with themes of friendship, death, and forgiveness. The most bittersweet and touching moments come when Matt learns to cherish his memories and opens up to those who are also grief-stricken. Family and community rally around their collective sadness, and they help Matt through his personal grief. Matt is only able to get better by relating his experiences and his pain to others.

Although most of the book is about Matt and Tabby’s friendship, basketball is also important to Matt. Basketball is Matt’s outlet, and the only activity he has that is separate from Tabby. However, when Tabby is dating fellow basketball player Liam, Matt’s two worlds become intertwined. And when Tabby dies, Liam becomes a reminder of what Matt has lost. Basketball itself isn’t as important to the story as the relationships between Liam, Matt, and Tabby, and the sport serves as a vessel for their personal issues.

A Short History of the Girl Next Door will appeal to those who enjoy slower-paced, slice-of-life stories. Those looking for a basketball-heavy book won’t find it here, as basketball is not the primary focus. The sexual content and language are geared towards an older audience and may not be appropriate for middle schoolers. Nevertheless, Matt’s growth throughout the novel is commendable, and Matt’s reaction to Tabby’s death will no doubt resonate with readers. A Short History of the Girl Next Door is a quiet book that looks closely at the ending of a friendship, and how someone learns to pick themselves back up.

Sexual Content

  • Matt admits that he started making “a mental list of the top-five hottest girls by grade level. Lily Branson landed the #1 ranking on [his] list.”
  • Tabby says about Lily, “People say she’s all stuck-up, but she’s actually really nice. I think people just say stuff because she’s pretty, you know?” To this comment, Matt says that he feels “like a complete ass. [He’d] made that comment—and worse—more than once, about Lily Branson, and any number of other attractive girls. Probably every girl on [his] top-five list. Because, you know, if a hot girl doesn’t want to mate with you, she’s obviously stuck-up.”
  • Matt is attracted to Tabby, his longtime best friend. He thinks, “Seriously, how can you see a person nearly every day of your life and never think a thing of it, then all of a sudden, one day, it’s different? You see that goofy grin a thousand times and just laugh, but goofy grin number 1,001 nearly stops your heart?”
  • Matt says upon describing the height difference between his grandparents, “The Wainwright men’s infatuation with pocket-size women is apparently genetic,” a nod towards Tabby’s small stature.
  • Matt describes the book An Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie as “an amazing book about basketball, and masturbation, and feeling shitty and alone, and how Indians are perpetually screwed.”
  • One of Matt’s neighbors, Corey, is very straightforward with girls at school and “openly tries to get [girls who like Corey] to touch his dick at his locker.”
  • Tabby tells Corey to go away, and Corey responds with, “You know, if you grow some tits, I’ll let you suck my dick.” Matt tries standing up for Tabby by saying, “Hey, that’s what I said to your mom last night, bro.”
  • One of the basketball players says to Liam, “What’s the deal with the freshman, B? She sucking your dick yet?” It is clear that he is talking about Tabby. He then says, “She’s a cockmonster, isn’t she?”
  • Matt jokes that his mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing is so good that he and his dad get “stuffing boners.”
  • Matt has a physical copy of his “Do List: Girls [he] would do if there were no consequences—social, emotional, or physical: freshman class.” Tabby finds the list and is very upset. She tells him, “Let me know when you’ve done the first hundred on the list, Matt. So I can spread my legs and wait my turn.”
  • Matt and his friend Trip have to write gift poems for poetry class. Matt jokes that he’s writing his for Trip, and that Matt “couldn’t think of a word that rhymes with bulge.” Trip responds, “Indulge,” with a wink, messing with him.
  • Matt writes a persona poem for his poetry class from the point of view of Mr. Mint, who has “wildly inappropriate opinions on King Kandy, the princess, and most of all, Plumpy, whom Mr. Mint tells to choke on it.”
  • Matt’s mom wants him to wear a bald eagle costume for Halloween. He would have to wear skinny yellow pants with the costume, and he says, “Where am I supposed to keep my nuts in these things?”


  • Tabby playfully “punches [Matt] in the shoulder, hard” when Matt asks if she likes Liam Branson.
  • Corey grabs the front of Matt’s shirt, looking to start a fight. Tabby, holding a corked baseball bat, “swung. Hard. The bat slammed into Corey’s right arm, the dented plastic barrel and duct-taped head finally giving way.”
  • After Tabby hits Corey with the bat, “he shoved Tabby to the ground. Tabby flew backward, landing hard on her elbows to keep her head from smacking the pavement.”
  • After hearing other basketball players make sexual comments about Tabby, Matt envisions different scenarios in his head, usually violent. He imagines “Branson going stone-faced in the locker room, grabbing Lighty by the neck and slamming him back into a locker . . . Or me, walking up behind Lighty as he’s singing his song, palming the back of his stubby, lumpy head and slamming his face into his locker, smashing his nose and knocking him unconscious.”
  • Matt tells Trip that he looks like a “squirrely-ass twelve-year-old.” Trip responds by picking up “a spent pizza crust from the box and backhands [him] with it on [his] arm.”
  • Trip and Matt play a video game where their characters spar against each other. Trip beats him one round, saying “I just made you my bitch.” Matt describes, “On the screen, his demon-girl flips into the air over another empty swing from my dude’s battle-ax and lands on his shoulders. In one quick motion, she scissor-cuts my poor bastard’s head off, reaches down into his gaping neck-stump, pulls out his still-beating heart, and eats it.”
  • Tabby “passed away in an automobile accident” while visiting her grandparents. Matt and the other students hear about it at school. It is later stated that, “an SUV lost control on a patch of ice coming off a turn, hit Tabby’s dad’s pickup head-on. Died instantly. Felt no pain. Probably never saw it coming.”
  • The team rallies around Liam because he dated Tabby and took her death hard. Matt is frustrated that no one has acknowledged that Tabby was Matt’s best friend, so when another player brings out armbands for the team to wear in solidarity with Liam, “a laugh escapes [Matt’s] mouth before [he] can stop it.” Liam “stands and drills [Matt] in the face.”
  • Grampa talks about when they used to paddle kids in school, as a teacher. After his first wife and daughter died in an accident, “by Christmas, a kid was getting it about every day. Usually the same ones.” On one kid who was being particularly nasty, he “broke the paddle.” Grampa never hit a kid after that.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Of Liam Branson, Matt thinks, “This time next year, Branson will be gone—hopefully putting on forty pounds of beer fat in a dorm at some state college.”
  • Trip’s dad explained how to cork a bat to Trip while “a beer [rested] on [Trip’s dad’s] stomach.”
  • One of Matt and Tabby’s neighbors, Corey, takes “weed from his parents’ stash.”
  • Tabby’s mom was a “drug-addict” who left when Tabby was a few months old.


  • Profanity is used frequently. Profanity includes: ass, bullshit, fuck, douche, badass, damn, shit, bastard, dick, slut, and cock.
  • Tabby calls her friend’s boyfriend a “complete perv-ball.”
  • Matt sketches a carny ride operator that wears a “a trucker hat that reads ‘I <3 Little Boys.’”
  • Matt writes a poem that’s an “ode to Internet pornography.” The reader never sees the poem.


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Matt’s grandpa takes one look at Matt in the bald eagle costume and says, “Sweet Jesus.”
  • At Tabby and her father’s funeral, Matt listens to “a few more numbing hymns” and the priest “speaks in infuriatingly generic terms about ‘the mystery of God’s love’ and [Matt] thinks, Yeah, this is a pretty big fucking mystery.”
  • Grampa has a heart-to-heart with Matt after Tabby’s death. Matt’s struggling to reason out what happened to Tabby and if life has meaning. Grampa says, “If there’s a God—and I’m pretty skeptical, myself—I figure he can fill me in when my time comes.”

by Alli Kestler


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“You don’t get judged solely by your worst moments,” Grampa Wainwright. —A Short History of the Girl Next Door

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