Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published: September 2011 (Dutton)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: 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.
My Review: (Oh, this is going to be difficult to get out in any sort of fashion similar to coherence, but I will try.)
I know what you are thinking. Average summary. Average cover. Less than average title. BUT DO NOT LET THAT DISSUADE YOU.
THIS BOOK. It has been quite a while since I read a book that grabbed me in this fashion. In fact, I think the last one that did was Anna and the French Kiss back in August, which was the preceding book that was linked to this one very loosely. I adored Anna, and I really wanted to do a review but never got around to actually doing it.
Let's take a quick break and talk about Anna for just a moment. I was afraid it would not live up to the hype, but it did. It was awesome. There was a little too much drama for my taste toward the end; the author relied on a common Big Misunderstanding trope I think she totally could have avoided. Regardless, I loved the book. It made me laugh and tear up; I could not put it down. The story was good, I really liked Anna, and St. Clair (The Boy) was absolutely wonderful. He really made the book.
Back to Lola now. My love for Anna set up confusing expectations for Lola. I wanted Lola to live up to the high standard set by Anna. However, with the Can't Stand the Heat to On the Steamy Side fall in quality and enjoyability (How is enjoyability not a real word? It should be.) fresh in my mind, I was hesitant about this.
I needn't have worried. Lola did not meet the expectations set by Anna; it surpassed them.
I really do not know if I can explain what it was about this book that made me enjoy it so much because I am not sure I understand it myself. It just possessed that quality. If a book has ever had that effect on you, you know what I mean. I was just so drawn in. And when a book has that element, it makes so much more of an impact; everything I feel about it tends to be more intense because I had such an intense connection with it. LOL, THAT SOUNDS RIDICULOUS. But seriously. Anyone who has run into that before, try to explain it to me in better words, and I will use that in the future. Anyway, as for Lola, I connected to the characters, I was involved in the storyline, and I never wanted the book to be pried from my hands. I read it in 3 sittings: I read the first chapter on the way down to the Interpreters Conference, read about 30 more pages in the break before the first session, and then that night, Lynne (name changed for anonymity's sake) and I went out on our little private deck overlooking the lake to read. I intended to maybe read half the book or so? Three hundred pages later, at almost 1 in the morning, wide awake, long abandoned by Lynne, I came back into the room (attempting -- and probably failing -- to quell my flailish grin) after finishing the book and just sitting there for a couple minutes, letting it resonate.
This paragraph has slight spoilers in it, so skip if you're so inclined. But I loved that for once, Lola was not oblivious to Cricket's feelings. Almost from the beginning of his return, it was clear as day. And she knows it, to an extent. I like that the struggle in this book was different from most books. Perkins did not need that crutch of "Oh, I like him so much, but I can't say anything because I don't know how he feels, and what if I look like an idiot...etc." She could easily have dropped some of his later indications of feelings and used that -- in fact, I expected it, because that is probably what a lesser author would have done. And I feel like the book was stronger because she didn't; it stayed truer to the characters the way it was.
ST. CLAIR AND ANNA. I don't want to ruin anything for you from this book or the last, but at least know that we meet them again. And it makes me super happy because I kind of adore them. St. Clair in particular. Ahem.
I loved (loved, loved, loved) that Alexander Graham Bell (Cricket's namesake) was not represented as this super awesome, amazing man like he always seems to be. The guy was messed up. He was all about Eugenics, particularly relating to the deaf community, and he was not the first to invent the telephone. Look it up. But I digress. Again.
Lola. She was a unique character, and I enjoyed reading about her. I very rarely have anything to say about The Girl in books unless she is particularly annoying or really significant to me/really awesome (which is rare). Neither was the case with Lola, although she was closer to the awesome side on the spectrum, if that matters.
Lola's outfits. I loved how Perkins did this. With the crazy outfits that Lola wore, it could have been easy to go over the top with descriptions and get boring. She didn't. I like how the costumes worked into Lola's character, as well.
Cricket. He was so freaking awesome. I loved all his little traits, his intelligence, the way he treated Lola, everything. I also like how he was really tall, which was a fun change from St. Clair in Anna, who was a self-proclaimed shorty.
Lola's dads. They were great! Andy was definitely my favorite, though; it certainly didn't hurt that he owned his own pie business, LOL. But really, I just loved his character. Lola's birth mother was also an interesting character. I did not think I would like her at all toward the beginning, but she grew on me.
As for the negatives? There were not many. I did not really like Max (Lola's boyfriend at the beginning of the story), but it wasn't to the point where it seemed like Lola was just with him for the story. There was, of course, a bit of unnecessary drama here and there, and Lola cried a little too much for my taste. But, really? This is YA. There's going to be drama. And a lot of 17-year-old girls cry. And neither of those things were to the extreme that they bothered me. They were simply the only things I could come up with that were particularly negative.
This book left me grinning like crazy. I even teared up a little bit during parts. I can't wait for the next book! It is supposed to be the last set in this...verse, for lack of a better word, because it does not really seem to be a series. This makes me sad because I would have liked to see Calliope get her own book. I was really interested in learning more about her. And you never know -- the brat in one book can make a pretty darn good heroine in the next (see Something Borrowed and Something Blue by Emily Giffin. Both good. I personally think Darcy's book >>> Rachel's book, though I know most people
Now, for probably my favorite part: Perkins is the QUEEN of YA build-up (and I do not say this lightly -- see Sarah Dessen, particularly The Truth About Forever, which itself is better, but it is also my favorite YA book). It is probably why I enjoy her books so much. She is really quite wonderful overall. Depending on how her third book goes, she might find herself up with Dessen and Deb Caletti, who are pretty much the reigning queens of YA, as far as I'm concerned.
If you enjoy YA at all (and even if you don't, really), I would highly recommend this book.
Sidenote: What is up with the name Cricket? The Boy in Deb Caletti's upcoming book (CANNOT WAIIIT) is named Cricket. Why the sudden popularity?