Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #2
Genres: YA, Romance, Contemporary
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.
There are a thousand ways I could describe how much I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door – and none of them would do this wonderful book justice.
Stephanie Perkins’ debut, Anna and the French Kiss, was stunning, warm and romantic. Lola and the Boy Next Door has a different feel: it’s energetic, tangy and infectious, larger-than-life yet filled with unexpectedly sweet moments and extraordinary storytelling. Stylish and charming as ever, Perkins weaves this tale of friendship and first love with both trademark brilliance and refreshing originality.
Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion – she believes in costume. If something can be extravagant, she makes sure it will be. She’s a riot of passion and colour. If those around her are down-to-earth, then she’s sky-high; there’s no end to her enthusiasm and love for life, especially clothes. The return of Cricket and Calliope Bell – her childhood friends and now possibly her arch enemies – to the neighbourhood, however, is like a pin to her balloon. She thought she’d hidden the feelings that went unresolved when they left deep down inside of her, but suddenly she can’t escape them. Calliope, now a successful figure skater, loathes her. And Cricket? Well, cute little Cricket’s all grown up, and Lola's not even sure if he remembers her.
Anna and Étienne – think of them as the Ross and Rachel of young adult fiction; the ones everyone wants to see together, the ones we re-read and re-visit time and again, the ones who will forever and eternally have been there ‘first’ – will always be my favourite Perkins couple, but Lola and Cricket come pretty close. I loved every single moment Anna and Étienne were on the page in this book - readers will be longing for their cameos throughout this novel - but it’s really Lola and Cricket’s story, and there’s no doubt about that.
The best thing about the way Stephanie Perkins writes romance is that she reminds us how most love stories are born from friendship. Her characters have real conversations, share interests, enjoy each other’s company and make each other laugh as well as being insanely attracted to one another. She embraces the existence of instant desire but is very clear that this does not equate to love – yet. Lola and Cricket grew up together and then grew apart; they’re not about to run dramatically into each other’s arms without being wary and making a lot of mistakes first.
My favourite secondary characters have to be Lola’s parents, Nathan and Andy. In a world where most writers shove fictional adults out of the picture as quickly as possible, they’re such a great example of parents who are actually present and involved in the story. They’re funny and relatable but they have no qualms with grounding Lola – who is, let’s face it, a drama queen, even if she’s a very lovable one – and laying down the law when she’s overstepped the boundaries. They’ve got lives of their own and have to deal with everything from running a business to keeping an eye on Lola’s unreliable and unstable birth mother, but they always come through for each other and Lola, and that’s what matters.
Of course, there were things I didn’t like about the novel, too. I absolutely hated Max, the guy who should have been Lola’s ex for way longer than he was in the book – I have no idea how she put up with him for so long - and the writing didn’t always reach the phenomenal precedent set by Anna and the French Kiss. Thankfully, there are so many upsides to Lola and the Boy Next Door, any disappointments are tremendously easy to overlook. It’s such an addictive read; I just couldn’t put it down. I fell for shy, quirky inventor Cricket hook, line and sinker. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and dangerously memorable. The conclusion is so satisfying; it’s impossible to read this book and finish it without a smile on your face.
In short: Lola and the Boy Next Door is a dream of a book. It’s heart-warming and real, with a surprising and satisfying story as well as a fantastic romance. Stephanie Perkins is hands down one of the best young adult contemporary authors of all-time. I can’t wait for Isla and the Happily Ever After!