Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins

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Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion…she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit—more sparkly, more fun, more wild—the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket—a gifted inventor—steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Lola Nolan is anything but average. She feels more herself walking around San Francisco in outrageous costumes and wigs, rather than jeans and a t-shirt. Her life feels perfect when she starts dating a Max, a slightly older rock-star who accepts her for who she is, even if everyone else in her life seems to disapprove of him. Then her old neighbors move back in next door and effectively send Lola’s emotions haywire. There’s Cricket, who Lola’s never forgiven for hurting her even while she might not be as over him as she claims, and his hateful sister Calliope.

This book is filled with so many unique and creative characters. Every character has some sort of interesting talent, though I think Lola’s fashion designing skills take the cake. I respect Lola immensely. She’s not afraid to be herself despite the fact that it can be hard for people to accept her as she wants to be. Fashion style aside, Lola is also a model daughter, even though her two dads are suffocating in their over-protectiveness. But it’s easy to see why they’re over-protective and that they’re only acting out of love, something Lola understands and, in a show of maturity, doesn’t hold against them. I thought her relationship with her parents (all of them) was really well-examined and realistic. All the details just added up perfectly and clicked together, coming together to form an in-depth look at a modern-day, disjointed, and loving family.

Lola is so likable that of course you want what’s best for her. At first, it’s hard to tell what that is. Max seems like a nice enough guy, but I never formed any real attachment to him as Cricket’s return to Lola’s life was inevitable. And when Cricket does return, it’s obvious he’s better for Lola, but I can completely relate to Lola’s conflicting emotions; being in a relationship can be so all-consuming that it’s hard to look beyond it and actively remember a time before or imagine any time after. Although I’d be more than willing to imagine the after if it included Cricket Bell, the most adorable boy on the face of the planet.

The pacing of this book seemed a little slow to me, at times, but it’s written in the same witty and charming tone many of us came to love in Anna and the French Kiss. Lola’s voice is potent throughout and the story is just as sweet as you would expect. Oddly enough, though I love Anna and Etienne (the stars of Anna and The French Kiss), I kind of hated them in Lola and the Boy Next Door. It seemed to me like Stephanie Perkins was trying too hard to capture everything we love about them and shove it all into a few scenes as if to say, “See! They’re here and happy and perfect! Don’t you still love them?” They were too happy and too perfect, like they were trying too hard to impress us/Lola. But it is nice of Perkins to let us know that they are happy and thriving and I’m sure many people will appreciate their return in Lola and the Boy Next Door. All in all, if you liked Anna and the French Kiss or, you know, happiness, then you don’t want to miss Stephanie Perkins’s latest novel. It’ll definitely bring a smile to your face.

Pages: 338
Publication Date: September 2011
Publisher: Dutton Books
Challenge: N/A
Rating [rating: 4]

Teaser Quote: “Max’s voice is pissed off. His lyrics taunt. The energy of his guitar builds and builds, and the bass thrums through me like blood. I am invincible. And then I open my eyes. Cricket Bell smiles.”

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