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.
Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dutton Books
Publication Date: September 29, 2011
Length: 338 pages
Series or Standalone: Series: Anna and the French Kiss
Themes: drug addiction, family
POV: 1st Person
Reviewer: Marisa Greene
How I Found It: I read the first book in this semi-series because everybody was raving about it. It wasn’t awful, but I didn’t really connect with it beyond a cute love story. But the writing wasn’t bad, and I liked the characters okay, so I thought I’d give Perkins another shot. I’m glad I did.
Cover Notes: I used the photographic cover because I felt like the other covers for this “series” imply they’re more connected/similar than they really are. I prefer the individuality in the photographs.
(Note: This is my first review here on Notes, and I’m still struggling to get used to the format.)
I’d read Anna and the French Kiss a few months before reading this book, and although I knew intellectually they were part of the series, I wasn’t expecting Anna and Etienne to show up quite in the way they did. I know it’s weird to start a book review talking about another book, but with this series, you can’t really help it. I suppose it’s going with the crowd, but it’s a topic I noticed in all the reviews I read before deciding to pick this one up. If you’re looking for more lovie-dovie from Anna and St. Clair, you’ll be disappointed. This is definitely Lola’s story. Which is another difference from Anna: This time it’s the MC with a decision to make, and Lola is much more strongly together with Max than Anna was with Toph.
I realize writing the above paragraph that I’m going to ahve to review Anna right after this!
Anyway, there are two obvious things that have to be said about this book, and neither of them have to do with Lola’s deadbeat mom, or her gay “uncles”. I really enjoyed this book. If you like contemp romance, if you liked Anna and the French Kiss, you’ll probably like this book, even if Lola is quite a different character. But I did have a few issues with it.
Lola’s boyfriend Max is a very… interesting character. There’s a lot of noise made about his age compared to Lola, and I really believed her claim that age doesn’t matter at the beginning of the book. But later, I started having some doubts. There’s a kind of tension between Max being pretty much just a bigger teenager, and simultaneously pressuring Lola to be older than she really was. There are definitely benefits to dating older men, and I wish Max had made a better case for it.
The second issue is the apparent insistence that your one true love exists, and should always be easy to be with. I can’t read Stephanie Perkins’s mind, but it seemed like there was a bit of authorial intrusion pushing that ideal, and that Max’s character was treated a bit shabbily to make Cricket seem like that one.
I believe in being transparent in my reviews, and so I wanted to get that out of the way before continuing.
I love Lola as a character. She’s a bit self-centered, and very dramatic, and just a perfect example of many girls I knew when I was that age. And I mean that in a good way. I liked that she had some quirks, including her love off off-beat fashion, or costume, as she is careful to distinguish. I also thought Perkins did a good job of developing her character throughout the novel. She did some growing up, but not too much.
Naturally, the main thing here is: who did she end up with and how was it? I think that, given only two choices, she definitely made the right one. Personally, I would have been fine with her being single, too. That’s a bit heretical when talking about a romance story, but I felt there were some possible issues with either guy.
Max was much older, and had different priorities than Lola. And she pushed him to date her, even though there was some initial reluctance. Given the beginning of their relationship, I think there was plenty of tension and a suggestion that they could make it. I even, in isolation, liked the development of their relationship, and that the sexual part of it was handled so well by Perkins. Obviously, Lola’s dads were against it, especially considering some of their family history. But Lola actually handled her sexual relationship with Max more maturely than maybe anything else in the book. I don’t think Perkins could have had a better set-up for the beginning of the story.
Cricket was more similar to Etienne than I would have liked, in the sense of his well-off family, but he did have his own issues, and I think that in the first half of the book, he was very well-written. I really liked his as a character and as a love interest. That said, as he started to get closer and closer to Lola, I started to like him a little less. Not that I thought he was a bad person, but that he had slightly more of a book-boyfriend vibe that I prefer. The reader was clearly supposed to think everything he did was so cute and romantic, and that’s often how it seems with young love (I can’t believe I just said that, they’re not much younger than I am). Maybe I’m just jealous. Anyway, Cricket is definitely endearing, and I can’t say I’m upset that Lola decided to be with him.
While there are many things I liked in this story, one I really noticed was the comparison between the family lives of Lola and Cricket. There’s an adorable scene where Cricket expresses frustration about his ancestor stealing the idea for the telephone (Yes, the Bells of the book are those Bells), and comments how he feels guilty for what his ancestor did that ended with with him having so many opportunities. And he should probably feel a little guilty, I think. But then Lola makes a heart-aching point about what that says about her, and her relationship with her mother. It can definitely suck for the kids to be declared guilty of their parents’ sins. Although it was an awkward moment, it definitely made me feel not only empathy with both characters, but that they were hitting a more mature point in the development of their relationship.
So I guess look forward to the Anna review, and now that this book has convinced me to try the third one, I guess I might end up reviewing that, too. I’d really like to thank Nick for giving me the chance to guest review on here. I don’t have the time to manage a blog myself, but I like that I can now say I’ve done a formal book review visible to the vast mass of the internet. I’m really looking forward to this being a regular thing.
Conclusion: 78/100 ()
Premise: 7/10 (Cliche, but fun)
Plot: 8/10 (Well-plotted, only a bit cliche)
Setting: 7/10 (Didn’t feel incredibly grounded in San Fran, but described well)
Main Character: 9/10 (Quirky, but not obnoxious; realistic portrayal)
Love Interest(s) 8/10 (Cute, fun, a bit arhcetypal)
Romantic Plot 8/10 (Cricket was a bit too perfect, but it’s a romance story, after all–in a good way)
Supporting Characters: 7/10 (A little weak, but good enough)
Writing: 4/5 (Better than servicable)
Voice: 5/5 (Nailed it.)
Themes: 7/10 (The family trouble on each side of the romance was a nice contrast)
Resolution: 8/10 (Strong, but a little too perfect)
Buy Or Borrow: This story was definitely worth the buying. No regrets.
The Sky Always Hears Me: And The Hills Don’t Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
The Busy Bibliophile
Barnes and Noble