The Boy Next Door

Katie Van Ark

In this intense romance, Maddy is swept off her skates by her partner—Gabe, the boy next door. See Full Description

Manuscript Status: Advanced Reader Editions are in!


Maddy Spier’s been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls. How can she make him realize that they can be partners off the ice as well?

Gabe’s relationship with Maddy is vital. He can’t imagine skating with anyone else, and together they have a real chance at gold–maybe even making it to the Olympics! So he’s decided to think of her as a sister. After all, family is forever, but he’s never dated anyone for more than two weeks.

Then their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, and everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big break-up that Gabe has always feared?


“You got this, Mad,” I whisper to her. “Do it again.”

She nods, and her face reminds me of her dad, the way he looks on his campaign billboards. Eyes focused, chin set. A look that says you can trust him to get whatever job needs doing done. Mad takes her crossovers. She pushes. She jumps. One-two-three and there’s the extra half rotation and on the landing, her knee’s bent so low she’s almost doing a backward shoot-the-duck but by some miracle of anything and everything holy–

She. Stands. Up.

I have officially lost the triple Axel contest. I will never live this down, but I’m so psyched for Mad that I don’t give even a bucket of Zamboni sludge. Mad’s screaming and I’m screaming and Kate and Chris have forgotten whatever the hell they were fighting about this time. Mad throws her arms around me and I hug her back. Over her shoulder I see Igor watching, smiling, as our club mates pile on us in a massive group hug. Mad’s landed her triple Axel. I am not worthy to tie her skates, but for some reason she’s still my partner.

No, not some random, unknown reason. In the middle of the celebratory huddle with Mad, her body pressed full frontal against mine with her arms around me and her face buried in my neck, I know the reason she’s still my partner. And I also know that whatever I do, I can’t lose Mad.


“Just finished it AS I was watching pairs figure skating in Sochi! I loved it. I love Gabe’s arc. He started out as someone I would tell my daughter to stay far away from and became someone I’d be thrilled for her to be with. Someday, when she’s like 30 and allowed to date.” — THHernandez

“Could not put this down! Great job; hope you write more.” — Teresa Phillips

“What a great read! Believable characters, realistic dialogue and an interesting and unique premise. This story drew me in right away and kept me turning the pages till the very end even though I know nothing about figure skating. I loved the dual first person perspectives. All it needs is an epilogue – I’m desperate to know what happens afterward on the ice!!! Five stars all the way ” — Kat

“This story pulled me in from the beginning and kept me hooked until the end. Each voice is authentic and even the parents are fleshed out and realistic–something that doesn’t always happen in YA fiction. Plenty of misunderstandings and make-ups, both part of teen relationships. I was left rooting for Maddy and Gabe both on and off the ice.” — AliasLibrarian

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Swoon Author Katie Van Ark: Keep Calm and NaNo On!

Katie Van Ark

For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, by this time you’ve probably found yourself in one of two groups. You’re either nicely synched with that little line on your bar graph…               … or you’re sliding all over the place with just a couple thousand words logged. (Unless you’re one

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79 comments on “The Boy Next Door

  • How do I get an ARC?

  • Super swoonworthy book!

  • I absolutely loved this book… I want a sequel…. Please? I’m begging!

  • Off the top, let me commend you on an awesome accomplishment – definitely deserving of a five-heart review! I’m a strong believer in the merits of “writing what you know,” and this story is an example of how this concept makes a story work. The authenticity definitely put you in the world of competitive figure skating and just brought your story to life without being overly technical in a way few other authors would have been able to do. I also liked the various ways you found to include the Romeo and Juliet theme and carry it throughout the story. (Like some other reviewers, I didn’t love seeing Maddie so desperate at the end, but it certainly went with this theme.) Another strength was the various subplots woven throughout – they definitely fleshed the story out. The main plot was well thought out from start to finish, and you certainly accomplished a complete story arc within this book, while also setting up for a sequel. I totally struggle with this, so to me, this was something really impressive. :)
    I have to agree with some of the other reviewers that Gabe “flipped the script” too abruptly at the beginning, but I think this is something that would be easy enough to shift without a lot of revisions. The only other thing that bothered me made me think of a blog post that was on SWOON a few months ago about “why don’t they just TALK to each other?” There were a few times when I felt Maddie went on waaay too long just thinking/assuming something that could have been easily cleared up had she just spoken to Gabe or her mom. I understand for the purpose of plot this was necessary, but it carried on at times to the point of frustration with her. Especially when by the end she was at a point of hurting herself before she just shared her concerns with Gabe. And it just seemed like she would have had an out and out confrontation with her Mom about accepting her father’s affair rather than having conversations about other things and sort of pretending none of it was happening after her mom initially dismissed it as tabloid gossip. But, frustration as a reader also reflects investment on the part of a reader, so I guess I was only bothered because I cared about the main character you created!
    Absolute FAVORITE most SWOONworthy moment for me? When Gabe rang the bells. Swooooooon! I eat that stuff up with a spoon – those really heartbreaking, tender acts of love that aren’t over the top or showy. Seriously my favorite moment of the book. The wedding was sweet and all, but for me, the subtle will take it every time.
    I think the romantic elements, the “heat” elements, the excitement around the skating events, and the social and family lives of these characters would allow this book to sell easily. Congrats Katie!

  • [deleted] on said:

    I’m only a few chapters in, but I had to comment on how much I love your voice in this work! It is realistic and fresh, and doesn’t seem forced at all. My only suggestions is to add a bit more to Gabe’s feelings BEFORE (seemingly out of nowhere) does a complete 180 and goes from not thinking of Mad “like that” at all…and then can’t get the thought of taking her under the bleachers from his mind. I think a more fleshed out progression might be less of a jolt for the reader, and make it more believable. I get from your previous comments that he’d always pushed those thoughts down previously, but I think SHOWING this rather than explaining after the effect would make him appear more likeable from the get-go. Where I am now in the novel, I just kind of feel like it never occurred to him to want something real from her before, and now he just wants to get her in the sack based on a routine.

    That said, again…your voice completely drew me in…which is huge. A storyline can be worked on/fleshed out, but you can’t change voice…and you’ve nailed that. Well done! =)

    • You CAN change voice. It’s hard, but I learned through study. The Breakout Novel workbook was helpful, as was a great deal of mentor text studies. Some of my work on this is posted on my author blog. That being said, it’s plot that’s hard for me! I’m loving that about Swoon Reads, because its so much easier to fix when readers point it out. :-)

  • [deleted] on said:

    I loved, loved, LOVED this story! I love stories about best friends (especially neighbors) falling in love, and I feel like there’s not enough of them out there. I was drawn into this story early on, and I was limiting myself to how much I read per day (college puts a real restriction on my reading time), but then today I ended up reading almost half of it because I didn’t want to put it down, and I have a history paper that needs written tonight and I barely touched it because all I wanted to do was read this because I was so hooked. I especially love the characters. They were definitely realistic and easy to relate to, whether the reader is interested in sports or not. Gabe and Maddy have great chemistry, and their fears about their relationship are definitely understandable and many teenagers can relate. This story is definitely swoonworthy!

  • [deleted] on said:

    What a great ending, especially with the skating analogy! The alternating points of view worked really well and I liked that we got to see how they both viewed the same situations. I did think that Gabe was sometimes a bit hot and cold towards Maddy which made me wonder whether he liked her as much as she liked him. On the whole, we saw why he was struggling with his feelings, so it did work.Maybe just make the start a bit clearer as he goes from thinking of her as his sister to having feelings for her a few pages later. I think someone else commented on this, and you said he was in denial, so it just needs making a little clearer.
    The sub-plots were great and I didn’t see the twist coming with Maddy’s dad. Kate’s pregnancy I did guess, but it was only because Gabe warned Chris not to get her pregnant. I think this was too big a clue, so I would suggest taking it out. Just a suggestion!
    The skating backdrop gives it an original setting and you’ve created a very believable world, crammed full of lovely detail. I can imagine it being a movie!

  • I absolutely loved this book! I really enjoyed “seeing” both sides to the story, and there was good momentum through with regards to the storyline and the characters. The only thing that made me pause were the ages of Maddy and Gabe and how everything ‘ended’ with them- it seemed as if it might be a better fit for a slightly older age? Nevertheless, a wonderful story with wonderful writing :-)

  • Lovely read, Gabe and Maddy are so cute! :D

  • Just finished it AS I was watching pairs figure skating in Sochi! I loved it. I love Gabe’s arc. He started out as someone I would tell my daughter to stay far away from and became someone I’d be thrilled for her to be with. Someday, when she’s like 30 and allowed to date.

    I think I had the opposite reaction to Maddy though. She went from strong and confident to someone willing to die because she thought a boy didn’t love her. That said, I don’t think that is an unusual teen girl reaction, but I think I’d like there to be something more going on to make her react that way. Pile more on her to get her to that point.

    Also, I didn’t just love the ending. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked a certain emotional punch I was hoping for, that you were building for. The pieces fell into place a little too easily for both of them. Gabe especially seems to be less introspective and the fact that he’d remember all those details and let them fall into place the way they did seems out of character. But that, and the beginning I already mentioned are the only areas that didn’t sit right with me. The other 99.9% is perfection!

  • Hey, I’m about a quarter of the way through so far and I am really enjoying it. I think your writing is strong and your characters are authentic. You’ve done an amazing job of creating two distinct POVs, something even bestselling authors have a difficult time doing.

    One thing that I did notice and that continues to bug me is in the first couple of chapters, Gabe is all over the place when it comes to Maddy. He thinks of her as a sister, but suddenly he’s interested in her because of a change in choreography, but he doesn’t find her physically attractive, but he wants to snog her under the bleachers. It doesn’t feel right to me.

    I think later on, he gets into the whole “keeping it on the ice” thing and that makes sense. I get that and can identify with it. But these two 17-year olds have spent five hours a day together for the past 13 years. He’s touching her all the time. They went through puberty together. I find it hard to believe he’s NEVER thought of her in that way. I think it would be logical to assume he has had those thoughts, but didn’t act on them because he doesn’t want to mess up the on-ice relationship. I also think it’s logical that when push comes to shove with his buddy asking Maddy out, he’s forced to face those feelings. That makes more sense to me than a change in their long program choreography.

    Granted, I know nothing about ice skating. My skating experience is limited to rollerblading and street hockey in the 1990s. So if this is something that is very normal within the pairs figure skating world, just let me know that and I’ll buy it.

    • Thanks for the feedback, sounds like I have some clarification editing to do. He does find her attractive, he’s just trying to talk himself out of it. :-)

      • Ahh, okay, that makes sense now. It didn’t come across that way to me. I’m about 40% through now and really loving it. Gabe’s character arc is awesome so far.

  • [deleted] on said:

    Hi KJV, I finished reading your book and loved it. I loved your characters and your voice and the book held my attention all the way through. I wish I could write better than you do. I think you’re a really gifted author and I can’t wait to read more of your work. Best of luck on getting published! You deserve it, and its also great that you’re giving so much feedback to lots of the authors on the site. :)

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