Series: Anna and the French Kiss #2
Published by Dutton on September 29th, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the negihborhood. 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.
With Isla and the Happily Ever After selected as our October book club book, I finally got around to reading Lola and the Boy Next Door. Cute? Definitely. Swoony? A little. Enjoyable and refreshing? Hell yes. Stephanie Perkins is the place to be for wonderful contemporary romances.
What stands out most about Lola and the Boy Next Door is its main character. Lola is quite the quirky little character. She reminded me of Jeane from Adorkable, in that she marches to the beat of her own drum. The crazier the fashion, the better. In fact, she designs her own clothes, which is super awesome. Crazy patterns and color combinations are what give her life, and she always has the right neon colored wig to go with it. There’s no one quite like Lola. Though I loved her individuality, quirkiness, and the ensuing conversations about being true to yourself and not caring what other people think, I found her voice the hardest to relate to of all of Perkins’s characters. It was special, but it didn’t really resonate with me like Anna or Isla’s voices did. (Maybe because Jeane is so dear to my heart, and this seemed like a less relatable version of her.)
But let’s face it: we’re here for the romance, and we’re here for the boy. The boy in this case is Cricket – the boy next door. Literally. He and Lola grew up next to each other, with their bedroom windows facing each other. They hung out quite a bit, and before long, Lola had an adorable little crush on him. However, Cricket’s twin sister didn’t really like that and sort of kept them apart. After years away, following his sister’s ice skating career, Cricket is back in town – in the house next door – at least on the weekends, when he’s back from college. The whole childhood romance, reminiscing about past crushes thing was adorable, and Cricket is pretty much the golden boy. It’s not hard to see why Lola would be so fond of him. Their chemistry and their interactions are all of the adorbs. Srsly, there are window conversations and notes, and it is just too cute for words.
However, their romance is not uncomplicated. Lola is actually in a relationship already – with the bad boy in a rock band, Max. He’s older, much older, and seems a bit too good to be true for being into a high school girl. Right away that relationship didn’t sit right with me. I mean, obviously I knew that he wouldn’t be THE SHIP. But it was just unhealthy from the start. I mean, let’s be real, this is a toxic relationship with an imbalance in power. Admittedly Lola is careful and smart, and she doesn’t really let Max overtly take advantage of her or manipulate her. But those warning bells are still ringing all over the place. And that’s why this will be my least favorite Stephanie Perkins book: it was obvious Max wasn’t the guy for her. It was obvious that Cricket was. And still it dragged on for so long, with Lola refusing to let go of Max. I wasn’t drawn in by her internal struggle because to me the answers were so obvious. The feels were therefore much less intense, sadly.
What I do still have to praise though is Lola’s parents – her two gay dads. GAY DADS GUYS. And they are super adorable. I’ve talked about how I get all the feels from father-daughter relationship and here I got two for the price of one! I loved the dynamics in the home. Though Lola is quirky and has this bad boy boyfriend, her dads don’t try to stifle her with rules. They celebrate her creativity and try to find middle ground. Best parents award, fo sho. And Lola’s complicated relationship with her biological mother touched my heart a little too. The family dynamics here were so different, but definitely interesting and a win for diversity.
There’s also a fair amount of Anna and St. Clair in this book – characters from Anna and the French Kiss – and I have to say that I LOVED that too. Since I reread Anna and the French Kiss just before I read this one, those characters were still so dear to my heart, and I loved seeing their interactions. I also loved how they all became friends – Lola, Anna, Cricket, and St. Clair. Stephanie Perkins creates such wonderful characters – even when they’re in secondary roles.