The Girls Next Door
by Cheri Crane
(Covenant Communications, 325 pages)
Reviewed by Michele Ashman Bell

The Girls Next Door, is the latest release by Cheri Crane, popular young adult author, who already has seven novels to her credit. It is a well-crafted, entertaining novel that will appeal to women of all ages, especially the young adult market.

The story, set in a college dormitory at BYU-Idaho, involves six roommates, who bring plenty of baggage with them to college, and I don’t just mean their clothes. Each of these girls is facing her own set of challenges and problems, which makes life in this college apartment anything but dull.

Using her trademark humor and quick-wit, Cheri Crane gives each of the six girls individual voice and personality, making them a strong ensemble cast of characters. We begin the story getting to know each pair of roommates as they arrive at their apartment. From the onset we see that six strong personalities living under one room is bound to create problems, and it does. But that is what becomes the greatest theme of the book . . . learning to love and accept others who are different from us, and appreciating the value of friendship.

You can’t help but laugh at some of the great one-liners and clever humor that Crane is so famous for. Still, there’s plenty of drama to tug at the heartstrings and make the reader cheer for the six roomies who refer to themselves as the D-6ers.

From eating disorders and strained family relationships, to self-esteem issues and even physical assault, the girls face and overcome great obstacles in their lives and in the process develop friendships and grow together, supporting each other along the way. Watching the characters grow and change gives the reader a great sense of satisfaction and proves inspiring. Kudos to Sister Crane for tackling the tough subject of eating disorders which affects one out of every three young women in this country. The afterword in the book written by Dr. Julie B. Clark, PhD, provides important information about eating disorders and encouragement to seek help.

I enjoyed the general feel of the book which was warm, fun and lighthearted. The story was well-paced and kept me engaged the entire time with all of its twists and turns. Sister Crane has a knack for great dialogue and fresh characters and this ensemble cast works well together. But, having this many main characters can also make for moments of confusion for the reader. It took me several chapters to get each character straight and remember what each one’s personal story is. Crane also chooses to tell the story through everyone’s eyes, which kept me on my toes trying to keep POV straight. Several times I had to stop and reread to see who’s head I was in.

There’s also the issue of the recent name change from Ricks College to BYU-Idaho. There seemed to be a need to remind the reader many times throughout the story, which got old after a while.

Overall this is a great story which I would highly recommend for young women to read. I would also encourage anyone who associates with young women in any capacity to read this book. The message is important, the story is enjoyable and the writing is wonderful. This is the type of book you’ll want to share with friends and family.

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