Written by Stephanie Perkins
Published September, 2011 by Dutton
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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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.
Quite simply – Stephanie Perkins has done it again. Lola & The Boy Next Door was one of my most anticipated books this year, and to say it didn’t disappoint would be a severe understatement. Once again I was able to devour the book in one sitting and marvel at the way Stephanie Perkins weaves marvellous, intricate characters.
Stephanie Perkins is just one of those authors that nails it perfectly every time. I still can’t believe that last year’s wonder, Anna & The French Kiss, was her debut novel. She’s simply one of those writers that cannot put a foot wrong. Like Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins has such an intricate way of weaving her characters. So much so that they have an undescribable amount of depth. She knows every single habit and flaw, every detail and every twitch. Her characters just always seem so three-dimensional. I don’t know how she does it!
Lola was such a complex character. I found myself disliking her at times, but then relating to her wholeheartedly the next. That’s the joy about reading this book. You feel the characters evolve as their stories progress, and you’re able to get inside their heads. Lola didn’t always make the right decisions, but she’s not perfect. I think that’s what Stephanie Perkins was trying to portray. I’ve seen some comments on others reviews – about how much they didn’t like Lola when comparing her to Anna. I don’t know why this is such a bad thing. It’s a different story, and the two girls were never going to be the same. We didn’t want to read the same story again with different characters, did we? As much as I LOVED (I am resisting the urge to bold that) Anna & the French Kiss, I went into Lola looking for a new story.
That being said, Anna and Etienne return. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to see them again, especially my favourite English/American/French boy hybrid. I, like so many others, was actually surprised at how much they featured in Lola, because I had initially thought they’d be given nothing more than a cameo. Once again Etienne brought his special flavour to the book, and I was (once again!) floored by just how real and unique he is. He is definitely one of my favourite character of all time and I can’t help but crack a smile whenever he invades the pages. Because that’s what he does. He seems to eclipse everything… well, for me anyway!
Cricket, though less complex in my eyes than Etienne, was someone I was rooting for from the start. His relationship with Lola is obviously the central focus of the book, and from the first few pages, I couldn’t wait to learn more about he and Lola’s past. He had his little quirks – he’s an inventor! – and he just matched perfectly with her. The tension between them was palpable; hot and sweet at the same time. I wanted to physically claw at the pages whenever a heady moment between them was interrupted or thwarted.
As for Lola’s relationship with her initial boyfriend, Max, well, you’ll just have to read the book to see how you feel about it. I don’t want to give anything away, but my heart stung a whole lot for her. Lola is a lot more raw than Anna was, often reverting to frustration and anger, and it gave her character an extra dimension to what’s seen on the surface. And I think her relationship with Max allowed readers to fully experience that. Her best friend also paved the way to show off their amazing contrasts. Lindsey was the kind of friend that balanced out Lola perfectly. She was discreet while Lola was eccentric and obvious. Lindsey was timid while Lola wasn’t afraid to shout her feelings. It worked, as the very best of friendships do.
Lola’s family dynamic was absolutely fantastic, too. I should mention that Stephanie Perkins’ secondary characters are never shadows; they make the story, as in all good books in the contemporary genre. I think this is the first book I’ve read where the two parents were of the same sex and I loved the fresh, modern take on family life it offered. Their tight-knit family of three also had other things to struggle with; such as Lola’s birth mother appearing out of the blue. While Lola is a story about, well, Lola and the boy next door, it’s also a story about growth and acceptance.
And can I mention that the cover – the book in the flesh – is just utter perfection, too? I find myself staring at it by Anna a lot. I can’t wait to see what the next book, Isla & The Happily Ever After looks like. I also can’t wait to read it.
Stephanie Perkins has more than assured her place among one of my favourite authors with Lola & The Boy Next Door. If you were a fan of her first book, what are you waiting for? Lola is the perfect rememdy for a lazy day or free night. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of ready time, because you’ll want to finish this one in one sitting!
Recommended to: Required reading for Anna & The French Kiss lovers. Apart from that, anyone wanting a sweet and memorable contemporary YA. Lola will leave you thinking about the characters long after closing the last page.