Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door 

Author: Stephanie Perkins 

Rating: 4 Stars

I'll admit it: I was terrified to read this book. Yes, terrified. You see, before I joined GoodReads, I avoided reading any contemporary novels, merely because they had all disappointed me, with the exception of one. Well, that one good contemporary that I happened to love beyond all reason was Anna and the French Kiss. It seemed to have been a book written just for me because, seriously, Anna and I? We're one and the same. Lola and I, on the other hand, are polar opposites. If anything, Cricket Bell and I are more alike, so the moment this book came out, I steadfastly refused to read it. I refused to tarnish my impression of Stephanie Perkins, I refused to read a contemporary novel with a narrator I couldn't relate to, and I refused to acknowledge that it was fear that kept me away from this novel. Well, needless to say, I finally picked up Lola and the Boy Next Door and while I may not have loved it as much as I did Anna and the French Kiss, it exceeded my expectations by far.

Stephanie Perkins is one of those authors that you forget is kind of new. You read her books and can't help but jump up and down because she gets you and her writing is beautiful and realistic in a way no other author's is. Of course, then you go to her blog and realize she's only written two books and then you cry your eyes out, but the point is, I would walk to the ends of the earth to read this lady's books. I love them. Lola and the Boy Next Door is, I think, what I wanted My Life Next Door to be like. Lola, despite being a protagonist who dresses up, has two gay fathers and a best friend who wants to be a detective is somehow utterly relate-able. Although her voice is distinctly different from Anna's, it still contains an undercurrent of vulnerability, teenage yearning, and confusion that everyone has felt at some point or the other.

When our story begins, Lola is happily dating Max, a musician five years older than her. It is then that the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, move back to their house right next to hers. Cricket and Lola have had an interesting past, to say the least, and when Cricket returns, Lola is distraught and unhappy. On one hand, she's in love with Max, but on the other, she used to be in love with Cricket and definitely still likes him. With Lola and the Boy Next Door, Perkins flips the sides and we get to witness a perspective similar to what Etienne St. Clair went through in Anna and the French Kiss. What makes Lola and the Boy Next Door such an endearing novel, in my opinion, is how honest a portrayal it is of teenage situations. Cricket, although not drop-dead gorgeous like St. Clair, has his own quirks that make him a swoon-worthy hero.

Perhaps best of all, though, is that Lola and the Boy Next Door teaches girls how to be treated right. Sure, Lola is in a happy relationship with a guy five years older than her, but there are cracks in their relationship that she doesn't even recognize until a nice guy like Cricket Bell comes along and treats her right. In a society where YA Literature is constantly being debated, along with positive relationships, Stephanie Perkins knows her stuff. Furthermore, unlike Anna and the French Kiss, this sophomore novel never feels overly dramatic. Lola and Cricket sort through their misunderstandings early on in the novel and then it is simply a wait for Lola to realize what she wants, who she is, and find a path to happiness.

Nevertheless, it is inevitable to compare Anna and the French Kiss with this novel and, in that respect, Perkins's debut is stronger. Lola and the Boy Next Door is just a tad bit unbelievable, with Lola's strange manner of expression in her costumes that often feels childish or seems like a cover-up for a truer personality, when in reality, it isn't. Once you get past this hurdle, though, the only major complaint I had was Lola’s boyfriend, Max. I found Max’s sudden change into Mr. Bad Guy to be completely unnecessary in order for Lola and Cricket to wind up together. I’m not denying that Max had his flaws, but while he may not have been the perfect boyfriend, he was quite a decent one and the fact that Lola and Max couldn’t just break up because of reality, because sometimes people realize that they’re not right for each other, was a bit of a disappointment. In addition, I found that although St. Clair and Anna appeared quite early on in the story, they disappeared, only to reappear again in the end, as did Lola’s best friend. While Anna and the French Kiss had extremely well-fleshed-out secondary character, this novel lacked that in plenty. Thus, I can't say Lola is a perfect novel the way I can say Anna is, but I can claim, with full certainty, that both novels get their point across perfectly.

Lola and the Boy Next Door explores slightly different themes than Anna and the French Kiss did, and I loved it all the more for that. It's still a quirky, fun, emotional journey of whirlwind teenage hormones, but it's also a deeper tale of finding yourself, expressing yourself, and being comfortable with who you are, despite your family and circumstances. Thus, for those of you still on the fence about reading Lola and the Boy Next Door: don't be. You won't realize how much you missed Stephanie Perkins until you pick this up and it will undoubtedly make the wait for Isla all the more painful, but it is so, so worth it. 


  1. I read this more than a year ago, so the specifics of the plot are lost to me at this point, but I do remember not loving it at all as much as I did Anna and the French Kiss.

    Partly it's that I'll always love books set at European boarding schools (thank you, Bloomability!), but I remember also being disappointed by how Anna and St. Clair are reduced to this unrealistically perfect couple, and by how, as you noted, the other secondary characters were similarly flat.

    I also have a lot of feelings about characters passing on what would be fun, consensual, and believably timed sexy times in favor of going to a school dance.

    Still, you'd better believe that I will continue to read everything Stephanie Perkins releases because her books are FUN. Glad you decided to give this one a chance!

  2. I'm the opposite of you with this one, Keertana. I loved this one just a little more than Anna. Anna had so much angst in it that parts of it were torture for me to read, even though I loved it overall. I can't wait for Isla! Wonderful review, my dear. Glad to see you picked this up in spite of your reservations. :)

  3. I agree about the treatment of Max. I feel like Stephanie made his character a BAD GUY just so Lola can break up with him when before, he was perfectly okay. I didn't like this book the first time I read it but I did like it more upon re-read. I'm excited for more Stephanie Perkins books! She really does have a special quality.

  4. YAY KEERTANA! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. I thought Anna was a bit stronger of a story as well, but I just love the way Stephanie Perkins tells a story. And I ADORED Lola's dads, it was so nice to have parents included in a YA book, so often they're absent. Can't wait to see what happens with Isla in book 3!

  5. I have yet to read any Stephanie Perkins but I've been considering it. I've been avoiding her books like the plague for some reason. I just don't know if it's my type of book, but it seems like everyone loves Stephanie Perkins so maybe I'll have to give her try. Wonderful review!

  6. Oh I'm a Lola girl over Anna but I really love both of them! I'm glad you finally gave this one a go and ended up enjoying it, roll on Isla!

  7. I haven't read either of these books (I know, right?) but I HAVE read about a trillion reviews so far and I've noticed that a lot of people complained about the sudden change in Max. I've actually been thinking a lot about these books lately because I need more feel-good romances while I study, and they're what immediately comes to mind.
    Fantastic review as usual. :)

  8. I guess I'm among the remaining few that have never read anything by Stephanie Perkins. And because I actually own the two books that Perkins have written, I know I've no excuse not to read them. Thanks for pointing out that while you liked this one, you still favored Anna and the French Kiss. From the sound of it, I think I'd adore Cricket and enjoy the character development of Lola. Thanks, Keertana!

  9. I've been wanting to read this one. One of the few contemp YA novels I've been really wanting to read. Anna and the French Kiss is the other one. Yes, I'm bad I need to fix that and you are giving me incentive to do that!

  10. Oh I completely agree with your review! This was never overly dramatic for me either, and I suppose it could have fallen into that category very easily. I actually liked this a little more than Anna and the French Kiss (though I gave them both the same rating), simply because I connected with Lola and Cricket slightly more. I'm VERY excited about Isla now, though! If all contemporary books were like this, I'd probably seek them out more often. :)

  11. I totally agree with your review Keertana, I absolutely adored Anna and the French Kiss, so I was so scared abut picking up Lola, that I didn't do so until a few months ago and like you I did love it but Anna would always be my ultimate favourite of Perkins' books so far (who knows I may end up loving Isla even more). But Perkins did have me doubting myself about who I loved more. I thought St. Clair would always be the one for me, but with Cricket in the picture, my heart was all over the place. I also think the way Max#s character was changed over the course of the book was completely unnecessary! But Perkins sure knows how to leave me with warm fuzzies! I just wish we didn't have to wait so long for her next book! Lovely review Keertana! :)

  12. Keertana, you've basically hit the nail on the head in terms of why I've been hesitant to read Lola. While I wouldn't consider Anna to be a literary form of me, at least I felt like I could relate and understand some of her feelings and actions and all. Lola's characters seems a bit..extreme. Almost like a parody, and I don't really enjoy parodies or things that are just too over the top, which I worry is what this book will be. I do like how apparently Perkins now has turned the relationship drama of Anna around and how Lola is experiencing a similar dilemma to St. Clair. That's really interesting. Based on your review, I probably should resolve to pick up Lola when I feel the need for a contemp with a quirky heroine. It'll happen. Eventually.

  13. I'm glad you finally felt brave enough to pick this one up Tana and not have all your hopes ruined about Perkins. She certainly sounds like a great author, and I'm thoroughly glad you managed to enjoy her second book so much.

    I like the sound of Lola's character and I'm still not fully convinced whether Perkins novels are for me, despite them sounding brilliant. However she's still on my wishlist.

    I have to say brilliant review as always dearest! Shame about the secondary characters as they're one of my favourite elements of a story.

  14. Oh my gracious, I still haven't read this one. I'm still relatively new to contemporary - I haven't been reading it for a year yet. And I read Anna and the French Kiss as one of my very first YA contemp books, so I didn't really care for it that much outside of the references to Danny Boyle and Batman. (Don't hit me, please.) I DO realize that I am in the vast, vast minority on this and I totally plan to do a re-read for my contemporary month this year and include Lola as well. So I'll be able to have a better picture with regard to what contemporary is all about AND I can compare the two. Plus it'll be a little bit closer to the release date for Isla. Glad you loved Lola and Anna! I am anxious to read/re-read them!

  15. I have put off reading this, too. I've got a gorgeous hardback sitting on my shelf and I just can't bring myself. But now you've made me want to just do it, because I'm sure there's a good story waiting for me!

  16. Her name is Lo-la. She's a steal-the-show girl.
    With purple stripeys in her hair, wearing leggings worthy of Cher.
    She's friends with Etienne, and of course, with An-na.
    The boy next door draws on his hand, and Lola yearns to understand.
    Across their midnight lawn, they talked from dusk til dawn.
    They were young and needed each other.
    But did the boy next door want more?

    At Lola's, Lola Nolan's Casa.
    The hottest thing since Etienne and Anna!
    At Lola's, Lola Nolan's Casa.
    Music, and passion, and geek hipster fashion.
    At Lola's... They fell in love.

    His name is Cricket.
    He's an inventor.
    He hangs out his window, and keeps his voice real low.
    And when she's within ear, he beckons her near.
    But Cricket wouldn't go too far.
    Because Lola had some scars.
    And then the tension grew, and hearts were ripped in two.
    There was love and some rough nights.
    But just who caused the fight?

    At Lola's, Lola Nolan's Casa.
    The most angst since Etienne and Anna!
    At Lola's, Lola Nolan's Casa.
    Sequins and tassels and two gay dad rascals!
    At Lola's... She lost her love.

    Her name is Lo-la, still a steal-the-show girl.
    But she's been through teenage hell, all thanks to Cricket Bell.
    Now it's make or break it, for a relationship.
    But she still has a boyfriend.
    Did I forget to mention him?
    Her path is undefined, she's losing half her mind.
    She's in a bind and in a crunch.
    Now she's about to lose her lunch!

    At Lola's, Lola Nolan's Casa.
    The best fun since Etienne and Anna.
    At Lola's, Lola Nolan's Casa.
    Hair clips and lashes and grand high school dances.
    At Lola's... Does she get her love?
    Does she get her love?

  17. I have read Anna and the French kiss and I didn't like it (I know, I know :p) Contemporaries aren't really my thing in the first place, but I have the idea that I might like this one better than Anna :) I love the sound from Cricket!


  18. I'm terrified to read this one as well, but for different reasons. I'm one of those rare people who didn't love Anna and the French Kiss. In fact, the more time passes and I think about it, the more I start to actively dislike it--and I feel like some of the reasons I dislike it are in Lola as well. I think I'd kind of hate Lola like I strongly disliked Etienne, and even though I'd like Cricket I'm not sure I should even go there. She's actually one of those authors that reminds me that contemp really isn't my thing. ><

  19. I loved this book! And I thought I couldn't love it as much as Anna, but I think I did. Close anyway. And the international factor was something I loved about Anna but surprisingly I wasn't disappointed by the US setting of Lola. Def cant wait for Isla!

  20. I was scared to read this book too after all, I LOVED Anna and the French Kiss. Could this book be better? And in turn, I think it was. I tried the hardest to not compare because I like both books for different reasons. As for the Max character, I agree. While his character was seemingly unnecessary, I feel that him being there added to Lola and Cricket's romance!


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