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
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. Bell
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.