Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publication Date: September 29, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Books
Reading Level: Young Adult (14+)
Pages: 338 (Hardcover)
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.~*~Lili's Reflections~*~
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.
Stephanie Perkins does it again! She has managed to blow me away with a love story so achingly sweet and amazing that nothing can compare! Well, that's sort of a lie. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS will always be number one, and while this book is amazingly written and awesome, it will always remain second to Perkins' amazing debut.
The concept in this one was really great. Lola is a 17 year old girl dating a 22 year old rocker named Max. Max really only likes Lola when she dresses up and looks older, not when she looks like herself. And he's rather mean, too. But Lola's set in the firm belief that Max is the one because she loves him, so they keep on chugging along despite her parents disapproval, but then the Bell family moves back in next door and her entire world is turned upside down because of one amazingly tall boy: Cricket Bell.
The family dynamic in this one was fascinating. See, Lola has two father's. Yes, two father's. And I love her little rants about how neither is the woman in the relationship because they're both gay--meaning they're both equally manly with equally feminine and male habits like loving figure skating and baking pies, but going on mean bug killing streaks while they change the pipes. Two fathers is really a win-win. Her mother had her as a teenager when she ran away and got into drugs and alcohol, so her uncle, Nathan, took her in with his boyfriend, Andy, who eventually took Nathan's last name to create one big happy, colorful family. I love it. Really.
And of course...the characterization was awesome as well. Cricket was this glorified inventor. Descended from Alexander Graham Bell, inventing is in his blood and always will be. He's insanely smart, creative, awesome, and stylish with his purposely short pin-stripe pants to reveal his crazy socks and pointed shoes. His sister, Calliope, is sort of mean, but she's doing it to protect her brother, which is incredibly understandable in the end. And then there's Lola. Lola is the most fashionably creative character I've ever met. She's always in costume, but she's not pretending to be someone else. Costumes, you see, are just a part of her and they exemplify her need for fashion. However, Lola was slightly selfish at times, and that's what makes her incomparable to Anna. Lola lies a lot and made some really bad decisions that lacked immense common sense. She was blind to anything that she didn't agree with and she was always looking for her older boyfriend to respect her age, but it's hard to respect a teenager when they do, at times, act like an immature teenager. I wish that she was less selfish. She has a big heart, but a lot of her actions and thoughts were incredibly misguided. This led to a lot of fighting or whining in the plot that did begin to get old after a while. Anna and St. Claire do make cameos in this one because Anna happens to be Lola's supervisor at the theater and I'm glad to report that they haven't changed. Anna is still amazing and Etienne is still a tiny man with a loud mouth full of Briticisms and a huge heart. He, specifically, does play an important role in getting Lola and Cricket together.
The romance in this one was slow going. There were a lot of complications and different obstacles hindering their path. But true love is eventually meant to be, and when a girl can give you the stars, you know you have to chase after her like there's no tomorrow. That's just what Cricket did...over the course of a little over 300 pages. While I enjoyed the pacing, I just wanted them to get together already! It took long enough. Sure, the final reunion was sweet, but I was really pulling for these two and their story seemed so unnecessarily complicated due to Lola's continuous lack of proper judgment.
With all of that being said, I can't help but compare Lola's story to Anna's story, and I found several awesome comparisons because of this that only a reader of all of Perkins' novels can appreciate. While Etienne was so short, Cricket was monstrously tall with his monstrous legs (six foot four to be exact). Only a fan can appreciate this. Similarly, Lola experienced what St. Claire experienced about having someone they were committed to, but being drawn to someone they are so much more compatible with while in a relationship. It was interesting to see it from a female perspective, though a slightly younger one, and it makes me curious to see if this is a reoccurring theme in Perkins' novels or if book three will hold something different for us.
This book comes in high recommendation, but I know some people had problems with ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS because of the many mentions of drinking and sex. LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR is a little worse in the sense that she has lost her virginity, though there clearly is nothing detailed, and her old neighbors used to have creepy life-size sculptures of some...unmentionable body parts. Pretty much, if you were at all uncomfortable with ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, you should put off reading this one. If you loved book one as much as I did, then you need to pick this book up right now and prepare to be taken on yet another perfect journey of finding first love. Perkins is the master of tugging on our heartstrings and delivering painfully realistic romances.