Lola and the Boy Next Door
By Stephanie Perkins
Date Published: September 29, 2011
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.
I wasn't sure Perkins would be able to top her debut, Anna and the French Kiss (which I recently reviewed here). While Anna still bests Lola and the Boy Next Door, I'm glad to report that it's by an extremely slim margin. Lola was just as thoughtful and likeable as Perkins' first novel, and another testament to the fact that young adult chick-lit can stretch a bit deeper than one might expect.
All of the elements that made Anna stand out can be found in Lola. Everything is in the details. Perkins' plots are really nothing new- girl meets boy, they fall into like, external hurdles (the inevitable other boyfriend or girlfriend) get in the way, angst ensues, but then love triumphs in the end. This plot is resurrected by all the memorable details Perkins instills into her characters, from Lola's ostentatious fashion to Cricket's messages on his hand.
Perkins really has a knack (I've been using this word a lot lately) for creating likeable, swoon-worthy male leads who are likeable because of their imperfections. Cricket may be awkward and nerdy and "overly nice" (though honestly I've never understood the whole 'nice guys finish last' thing), but he feels real in ways that Etienne St. Clair (of Anna) does not. In fact, I think I actually may prefer Cricket.
Paris was truly a character in Anna. Perkins once again illustrates her ability to capture the essence of a city, to the point where the city magically plays a prominent role in the story. I almost feel as if Lola could not have taken place anywhere outside of San Francisco.
I enjoyed all the appearances made by St. Clair and Anna and was happily surprised that they were a more integral part of this story than I thought they would be. I expected a once sentence cameo, or a brief mention. However, it's important to note that Lola and Cricket definitely stand on their own and I didn't wish to see even more of St Clair or Anna because I completely believed and understood that this was Lola and Cricket's story.
I'm looking forward to 2012's Isla and the Happily Ever After, the final companion novel in Perkins' trio of novels.