Lola and the Boy Next Door, Stephanie Perkins’s companion novel to the tingle-inducing, Anna and the French Kiss, is a sweeping, high-school romance. Both of Perkins’s novels were romantic to the extreme, nail-biting, book-slamming in frustration, heightened heart beat, awe-inducing reads. Perkins has a way with making you wish you were the main character, even during their rough patches, because both Anna and Lola are strong, independent-thinking, female leads with creative genes, wonderful personalities, and amazing friends. Perkins also expands her minor characters to a T, making the story really feel alive: Lindsey is a wannabe Nancy Drew with a personal vendetta against dating during high school. Calliope is a world-renowned figure skater who hates being second (if you ain’t first your last, am I right, am I right?). And Cricket, Cricket is quiet, smart, caring, careful, and forgiving. He’s an inventor, he is a perfect, sheltered, home-schooled boy who is intelligent enough to go to Berkley a year early, and he is the number one reason (beside Lola herself, of course, but she’s the whole story, so you’ll have to read the novel to unravel every reason she’s an awesome character!) on my list of why you should eat Lola and the Boy Next Door.
1. Cricket Bell
I’ve already delved into the character traits that make Cricket Bell the most awesome and datable fictional character in the world of fictional characters. Like really, a good dresser, smart, and caring. That just doesn’t happen in real life. Or in my life. But, it’s the effort that he makes for Lola that sets him apart from any heroine’s romantic interest I’ve read. I don’t want to give any specifics away, but he drops everything to be around her, he waits for her, and he constantly makes her question her intentions and actions. He brings the best out of our Lola, and that’s what makes him perfect.
Oh, another thing that makes Cricket so awesome: my expectations were low. I kind of judged the book by its cover and thought “the boy next door” he must be a football-playing, schmoozing, high school guy. Was I wrong, or was I wrong? Never underestimate the power of Perkins’s writing prowess.
Lola is a costume designer, so that leads to her life being like a walking stage performance. She has pink wigs, purple wigs, gingham dresses, picnic inspired jewelry, and most importantly, a Marie-Antoinette inspired winter formal dress. Complete with a huge, curled wig with little birds and a real, can’t-get-it-through-the-door-gigantic skirt. You’re constantly guessing what she will wear next and being inspired by the confidence she exudes through wearing her costumes. Plus, she makes most of her pieces in a glittery bedroom with fabric strewn all over the place, a real best friend, that one would be… (if she were real, that is).
3. The family
Lola’s family dynamic is different than most. Her uncle is her father, and she has another father. But, she also has a mother. Each character is well-written, and the problems that happen in both Lola’s and Cricket’s families makes this contemporary teen romance a little bit of a harder hit than Anna. Lola teaches us that just because she has two dads, that doesn’t make one the mother figure. One dad is not more feminine than the other. I think in a world where gay marriage is slowly starting to gain acceptance, people need to learn to stop stereotyping and just accept others without question. Nathan, Andy, and Norah, three characters who add something more than a romance into this novel. (Andy is the pie-guy, in regards to my pie freak-out in the introduction, ugghh, the pie scene, the woods scene, EVERY SINGLE LOLA/CRICKET SCENE).
4. “The Boy Next Door”
So, yeah. Cricket is the boy next door. And the whole thing reminds me of that Taylor Swift music video. Which just adds to the fact that everyone wishes that there were a hot guy next door to them. Which adds to the perfection of this book. (But, if I daresay it, Lola is better than any Taylor Swift music video).
The Lola/Cricket romance is so real. When you have a crush and you are a teen, it’s all drama all the time. You’re constantly worrying that they’ll forget about you, or worse, that they don’t even like you. You’re embarrassed about how your parents will react. You pray that everything will work out. You constantly get shut up in awkward places and situations with them because the whole thing just feels awkward and weird. You think about what they’re doing, who they’re talking to, what they say about you, 24/7. Teens are still learning about themselves and their feelings and their true worth. Any time that feelings are hurt or pain is felt or happiness is universal, emotions just go haywire. Perkins really captured a teen’s sincere feelings in each and every page. The romance was so realistic. Lola learned about herself and about the true way love feels along the way. She wasn’t too experienced or too worldly in her romance. She made mistakes and Cricket made mistakes and they work it out.
6. San Fran
Like it’s companion, Lola and the Boy Next Door has a lot of tie-ins with the setting. While Paris really overtook Anna and what she did, who she met, and what she ate, San Francisco played a little less of a part but was equally as important. Lola took her dog (the awesomely-named Heavens to Betsy) out for midnight strolls down hills and into parks. She walked streets lined with cutesy shops and brightly-hued homes. She partook in a city-wide Halloween costume party full of rocking bands and surprises. To an East Coast girl, California just seems like a magical world away, Perkins wrote it to be as much and made me want to travel there even more than I did when I watched Full House.
The city, the characters, the relationships, they are all perfectly woven to create a fun, amazing romance that definitely should be consumed in one night. I’ve probably said too much already, and I haven’t even included Max in my synopsis, or the Anna/Etienne aspect. Read, read, read. It’s a 5/5 stars if there ever was one.
Image courtesy of bourjourivyparker.blogspot.com, but found on google images, of course!