In this companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, two teens discover that true love may be closer than they think
For budding costume designer Lola Nolan, the more outrageous, 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 move back into the house next door.
When the family returns and Cricket - a gifted inventor and engineer - 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.
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published September 29th 2011 by Dutton
Four stars: A delightful follow up to Anna and the French Kiss.
Life is great for almost seventeen year old, Lola. She has two, wonderful, loving and protective fathers, a terrific best friend, Lindsey and a handsome, rocker boyfriend, Max. Yep, things are good, the sun is shining and she and Max managed to survive another Sunday brunch with her dads ( a standing requirement in order to go out with Max). All that remains between her and an afternoon date, is walking the dog, Heavens to Betsy. After a quick stroll around the neighborhood, the sparkling Lola turns back down her street to head home. Her heart catches, a moving van is parked in front of the house next door. It can't be...no that white couch couldn't belong to them. Relieved she enters the kitchen eager to grab Max and head out; but first the dishes. Hurriedly, she scrubs the plates, smiling, until she hears the dreaded words: the Bell family is moving back into their house next door. A jumble of emotions hits her like a ton of bricks. The plates she is holding tremble and clatter to the floor, crashing and splintering. No! Not him, not Cricket Bell, the boy she hopelessly adored and crushed on since their first and only kiss when she was five. A swift peck that tasted like the dusted blue sugar cookies they devoured earlier. As quick as the fledgling romance started it was squelched by Calliope, Cricket's jealous twin sister; until two years ago when the two began "accidentally" running into each other everyday. All those long nights conversing with the moon and wishing on the stars for Cricket to be hers are on the verge of coming true, then the unthinkable happens and suddenly the boy next door is gone and Lola is left to mend a shattered heart. Now, he is back but that shouldn't matter to Lola, she has the perfect boyfriend in Max, doesn't she?
What I Liked:
- Stephanie Perkins is a master at creating the giddy, walking on sunshine feelings that go hand in hand with the blossoming of that all important, first love. She captures just the right emotions, bubbling joy, the shy stumbling and aching longing. Whether you are a teenager newly entangled in the bliss of your first romance or an adult fondly recalling the memories of your youth, this book will speak to you. It has everything you adore and expect to find in a book that depicts falling in love and the raw emotions of heartbreak.
- The characters that populate a Stephanie Perkins novel are always genuine. Lola, is not your typical teenager. She is a fashionista, dressed in sparkles, glitter and wigs in shades of the rainbow. Lola is talented, creative and she designs all of her eccentric wardrobe, that is drama and color. One day she is Cleopatra or on another, Marie Antoinette. Her look is a constant design evolution, since she vows to never wear the same ensemble twice. How I wished this book had pictures of Lola and her whimsical closet! As her story unfolded, I questioned whether her array of costumes was just her unique signature of self expression or were they an attempt to mask her emotions and protect her heart? Lola is caught in that span of time in a teenager's life where she stands on the brink of adulthood, her foot planted shakily and uncertain on the threshold. Part of her eagerly moves into the adult world, while the other clings to the treasured memories of childhood. She is a little girl struggling to make an adult relationship fit, since Max is twenty two. As a result tiny, white lies and self defensive words drip from her lips. Her dramatic, teenage commentary, often in all capitals, will elicit a few chuckles.
- Cricket is in many ways Lola's opposite. He is nice, respectful and patient, as he resides constantly in the shadow of his champion, figure skating, twin Calliope. He is so painfully shy and endearing; you can't help but to love him. Not to mention, handsome, tall and he has his own signature style that includes slightly short, pinstriped pants and wrists adorned with colored bracelets and rubber bands. Cricket is a tinkering inventor with a habit of using his hand as a notepad for reminders. He smells like clean soap and mechanical oil. His heart has always been in Lola's pocket whether she knows it or not. A boy willing to chase the girl he loves forever, if that is what it takes. There is no doubt that Cricket will snag the hearts of many readers.
- I appreciated that Lola lived in a non-traditional family; she is reared by two gay men. Ms. Perkins gives a peek at what it is like to live with two dads and it is a refreshing experience. They are loving and supportive fathers, completely concerned with Lola's happiness. Thank you Stephanie Perkins for allowing us a quiet glimpse into daily life in their home. I hope it will help tear down some barriers.
- Fans of Anna and the French Kiss will be delighted to see Anna and Etienne in Lola's world. The couple is decidedly, head over heels in love. I found myself smiling at the progression of their relationship into simple, blissful happiness. Lola and the Boy Next Door, is a companion novel, you can read it without having delved into the pages of Anna and Etienne but it will enrich your experience with Lola's story if you do. I love the idea of companion novels.
And The Not So Much:
- Ms. Perkins has a habit of labeling her books with dead giveaway titles, so you know going into the story that Lola is inevitably going to end up in a relationship with the boy next door. Part of me liked having this information and the other side wished that I was caught up in the anxiety of not knowing.
- Max, at first, I liked his character even though I knew he was wrong for Lola. As events transpire, he becomes jealous and possessive. When the relationship moves into rocky terrain I was disheartened by the ugly note left behind.
- While I loved that Lola had two fathers, I felt that only one of the dads was well developed. I met Andy and learned that he is a pie maker extraordinaire. He is patient, especially when it comes to his drug addict, problem prone sister, Nora, who is Lola's birth mother. He is well rounded and the only thing "gay thing" about him is his love of figure skating. Nathan, on the other hand remains a mystery, he is older, busy and lacks patience and that is all I know. He is in the background and I wanted him to step forward so I could see him better.
Lola and the Boy Next Door, is a novel you will want to read when you need a pick me up. It is a warm, tender, deliciously, sweet story about a girl who whispers to the moon and a boy who wishes on the stars. A book for anyone who dares to dream of true love. It is an adorable, love story that will plaster a big smile on your face and leave you beaming. I highly recommend you read both Stephanie Perkins books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, they are a delightful experience. Look for the final companion novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After, due out 2012. I hope that I will see the return of Lola, Cricket, Anna and Etienne as I read Isla's story.
Lola and the Boy Next Door is currently listed as a nominee for Best Young Adult Fiction in the Goodreads choice awards.
"I don’t believe in fashion. I believe in costume. Life is too short to be the same person every day."
" And then the side of my hand brushed the side of his, and my heart collapsed."
"And then his gaze locks onto mine, and his face alights like the stars. He smiles—a full smile that reaches all the way to his eyes—and it’s sweet and pure and hopeful."
"The moon is fat, but half of her is missing. A ruler-straight line divides her dark side from her light."
"There’s something deeply spiritual about her pale glow, her cratered surface, her waxing and waning. She wears a new dress every evening, yet she’s always herself."
"I wonder if he’s looking at my butt.
WHY DID I JUST THINK THAT? Now my butt feels COLOSSAL. "
"Life isn’t about what you get, it’s about what you DO with what you get.”
“Being a good person, or a better person, or whatever it is you’re worried about and trying to fix? It shouldn’t change who you are. It means you become more like yourself."
"His expression melts. He enfolds me into his arms, and I rise on my platform tiptoes to reach his lips again. I want to kiss him for the rest of the night, for the rest of our lives."