Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more fun, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect in Lola’s world, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend. That is, until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood and unearth a past of hurt and anguish that Lola thought was long buried. When talented inventor Cricket 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.
Although I can’t say I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door as much as I loved Anna and the French Kiss, I did really enjoy it. Lola and the Boy Next Door is the companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, and while you don’t necessarily need to read Anna and the French Kiss first, I highly recommend doing so because certain characters from Anna and the French Kiss appear in this novel as well! Similar to my last review I am going to split this review into two parts, Part I will be spoiler free and Part II will contain some spoilers. Overall I do highly recommend this novel, especially to any people who are looking for a book that will make you feel like you are on happy pills. Congratulations Stephanie Perkins, you are officially the queen of creating adorable relationships which melt my heart.
Part 1: The story begins and focuses on Lola, a seventeen year old girl, living with her two fathers, who adopted her from a relative with a substance abuse problem. Lola is a complete fashionista who loves creating her own costumes to wear; she feels more confident in a wig and tutu than a pair of blue jeans and flip-flops. Her dads completely support her fashion taste, however, they are less than thrilled about Max, Lola’s twenty two year old boyfriend. Covered in tattoos and sporting bleached hair, Max is a parent’s worst nightmare. Despite Max’s lack of parental approval Lola adores Max for his uncontrolled passion and his honest nature. Although Nathan and Andy (Lola’s fathers) strictly control Lola’s relationship with Max, she loves her life of watching Max’s shows, sneaking off to see him, and spending her free time with her best friend Lindsey.
If Lola ignores the twinges of pain that occur whenever she looks at her neighbor’s house she is completely content. Even two years later Lola is haunted by her memories of Cricket, the boy who used to live next door. Lola tries to push away her memories of Cricket, and she is almost successful, but then the unthinkable happens, Cricket and his twin sister move back into their house next door. Cricket has changed, but will Lola let him come close enough to change her as well?
Part II: (Beware of Spoilers: If you haven’t read this book go away and then come back and discuss it with us!)
I really enjoyed Stephanie Perkins’s focus on Lola’s family, because I find that often in young adult literature, many parents are cut out of the picture. In Lola and the Boy Next Door, Nathan and Andy play a crucial role in Lola’s life, and although she thinks they can be overbearing they do truly care about her. Nathan and Andy are there for Lola when she needs them, such as when the Bells moved back in, but they also let Lola be free and embrace her uniqueness. I also quite enjoyed the development of Norah, Lola’s mother, in this story. Although Norah was not present for most of Lola’s life and has not been the best role model, her character was (in my opinion) redeemed when she showed that truly did care about Lola from her short period of living with Lola’s family in their house.
Lola is not your typical young adult protagonist. In many books, characters are made to seem very wise and act older than their own age, and thus, I was taken back by Lola acting like a whiny, typical teenager. However, her character grew on me overtime once I realized that she was just confused about what she wanted and who she wanted to become. Also, I absolutely ADORED reading about the outfits Lola created. Each of the characters had their own unique talents, but Lola’s was definitely the most spectacular. I thought it was so interesting that she got to become a new person every single day, and while I would love to dress as she does, I am too self-conscious for that. Lola’s strong personality is divulged through her attire because although she remains hidden under layers of make up and intricate costumes, she never loses herself or who she truly is.
In the majority of the novel, readers are led up to a moment in which Lola would finally explain what Cricket did to her two years ago that was so reprehensible. Throughout the story I theorized that Cricket maybe cheated on her, or that he forced Lola into doing something she didn’t want to do, and so when I discovered the truth I was quite disappointed. In reality, Cricket simply was not brave enough to express his feelings to Lola and then Lola was not invited to Cricket’s birthday party, and this was his twin sister, Calliope’s fault! Although I tired to sympathize with Lola and her feelings of betrayal, not being invited to a party did not justify her hatred of Cricket in my mind.
Cricket has become one of my all-time favorite characters. He is quirky enough to be realistic and kind enough to be that perfect, loveable, ‘boy next door’. From the second when Stephanie Perkins described that Cricket too had a great fashion sense I knew that he and Lola had to end up together. I also really enjoyed that Cricket was a ‘nice guy’. Often in YA I read about very moody and arrogant guys who still manage to sweep the damsel off her feet, and thus it was refreshing to read about a character who even after discovering that the girl he liked had a boyfriend, would still be willing to help her create her dress for her winter formal.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was that Anna and Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss reappeared in this book. They were not minor aspects of this story either, they appeared frequently and provided Lola with fantastic advice and support. Also, I really enjoyed seeing Anna and Etienne through Lola’s eyes, because her perspective even further illustrated how in love and adorable they still were! When Lola described how Etienne and Anna always went out of their way to see each other, something inside me melted a little bit. Something I found interesting was that Lola’s difficulty in dumping Max and dating Cricket mirrored Etienne’s predicament in which he could not dump his girlfriend in Anna in the French Kiss for Anna. Both Etienne and Lola were so consumed by their unhealthy relationships that they found it difficult to look for an after phase of the relationship, but similar to Etienne, Lola did eventually choose the person who was best suited for her… CRICKET!
When Lola broke up with Max, I was jumping for joy. I found it very realistic that Lola did not immediately go from Max to Cricket because like an average human being, she needed time to heal her wounds and find herself once again. But, when she and Cricket did come together, it was like the icing on the top of a cake. While I did think it was a little juvenile and puerile that this whole book was leading up to Lola’s winter formal, the image of the two walking into the entrance of the dance hand in hand was the perfect end to the book in my opinion.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story, and look forward to more cuteness and adorable relationships in Isla and the Happily Ever After.
That is all for today! I would love to know if you guys like Anna and the French Kiss or Lola and the Boy Next Door better!