Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

In this companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, two teens discover that true love may be closer than they think

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 didn’t enjoy this book as much I did Anna and the French Kiss. One reason is that I’m currently not that into straight-up romances right now. (So why was I reading this? Good question.) The second is that this particular romance failed to have the spark and charm of its predecessor. This is what frustrates me about romance as a main storyline – it is very easy for them to look alike.

Cricket, the love interest, felt too similar to Étienne – he’s cute, charming, funny, does adorable things for the girl he loves, and is the epitome of a good guy. The only things that differentiated him and Étienne was his family background and his prior relationship to Lola. Also, he had no flaws to speak of, unless you count constantly putting his sister before himself a flaw, but even that’s shown in a positive light to demonstrate what a caring person he is. Honestly, he’s *too* perfect – everything he does, he does so with someone else in mind, be it Lola or Calliope, his twin.

Although Lola’s dads in general were cool people, their over-the-top protective attitude really grated me. It made more sense when Lola was dating Max and they had appropriate concerns about the age gap. It ceased to make sense when they, particularly Nathan, applied that same treatment towards Cricket, whom they’d previously subtly and not-so-subtly suggested that that’s who Lola should be spending her time with, and even dating. All of a sudden, they find him in bed with her (no sexytimes were or had been occurring), and Nathan blows his top. Come on, they’re seventeen and eighteen years old, respectively. And Nathan really liked Cricket before that even happened! Sheesh.

I did like Lola’s vivaciousness and her outlook on the world as an endless opportunity to dress up and try new things. However, she came off as even more self-centered than Anna before her. First she spends all her time and attention on her relationship with Max, and then when Cricket enters the scene, it’s all about him and Lola. I’m impressed that Lola’s friend Lindsey supported her the entire time and never really got mad at her, even though Max continually acted like an asshole towards her. It felt frustrating that almost all of Lola’s problems centered around those two guys. She did also have problems related to her birth mom that she needed to deal with, but it still sort of proves my point that, for her, the main people worth caring about and whose opinions and feelings mattered the most were Max and Cricket.

The good thing about this book is that it is great light reading. The writing is easy to read and the story moves quickly – I read it in a couple of hours. It’s a good choice if thinking is not what you feel like doing at the moment (which I wasn’t). That being said, I noticed points at which the writing felt overly obvious. There’s this one section where Lola assures the readers that her dads aren’t gay male stereotypes and that those stereotypes are stupid anyway. I don’t disagree with what she said at all, but I wasn’t sure why the author felt the need for Lola to have to explain this, rather than write Lola’s dads as they are and assume that readers would be intelligent and perceptive enough to see it for themselves.

Like last time, the author did a good job capturing multiplicity of emotions and thoughts of a teenager and falling in love and the confusion of feeling something for a person you think you’re not supposed to. I did like how Lola’s situation was essentially that of Étienne’s in the previous book – she has a boyfriend whom she’s infatuated with, but then Cricket re-enters the picture and suddenly she’s caught in the middle of what she thinks she ought to feel for Max and what she legitimately feels for Cricket. When seen from Anna’s side in the previous book, Étienne couldn’t help but look an ass at times. Here, Lola’s the one who looks like that, except since the story’s told from her perspective, it’s also made clear that being in this particular situation is hard and certain decisions aren’t easy to make.

Overall, this book is pretty similar to its predecessor. It’s cute, fun, easy to read, and fills you with pleasant feelings. If only Cricket had been more of his own person and less of a dream boy and Lola had been less self-centered. I think what this book proves is that I should not read YA romance for a while now, as I currently can’t read it without griping about it.

Disclosure – library

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