November 14, 2011

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

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.
Japanese Tea Garden San Francisco
Before I can start this review and before you even consider reading Lola, you must ask yourself this question: Have I read Anna and the French Kiss yet? If the answer is no, RUN, don’t walk to your nearest book retailer and get thee a copy of this book by Stephanie Perkins. If there is a prerequisite to reading Lola, it’s got to be Anna. Oh sure, you can live on the edge and skip right over to Lola without having read Anna. You’d probably still swoon from the cute deliciousness that is this super cute sophomore novel by Perkins, wait... did I just use the word “cute” twice in the same sentence? Warranted, so it stays. Where was I? Oh, yes, you should read Anna first. Then you’ll understand why Anna and her boy, St. Clair are always making googley eyes at each other.  Also, you can’t really talk about Lola without talking about Anna because, after all, they are companion novels.

But lets get back to talking about Lola.

This is a boy-meets-girl story, there really isn’t any mystery about what the book is about from the title. The boy next door? His name is Cricket. No, not as in *crickets* as in, his name is Cricket. Cricket also has a sister named Calliope. There’s much debate on how to say her name but this story isn’t about Calliope and her burgeoning figure skating career (I kid not), but it’s about how Lola and Cricket figure it out. Let’s also complicate matters by throwing in a musician boyfriend who seems like a decent guy to Lola and who endures Sunday brunch every week with her and her two dads (really, I’m not making any of this up). Then throw in one more character into the mix, the lovely city of San Francisco and you’ve got yourself a story just itching to be told!

I must say a few words about San Francisco. I live about 45 minutes from the City by the Bay and I have to tell you, I’ve never loved the City. My husband loves the City and was raised there and has begged me in the seven years of our marriage to consider moving there. Hell to the no is typically my answer. I’m not a fan of the City, I have to admit. But... and this is a big but... I loved the way Stephanie Perkins used SF as a wild eclectic character in her book. Much like she did in Anna with the city of Paris, Perkins brings San Francisco alive with her detailed descriptions of real places and landmarks. And not just the well-known tourist traps, oh no, she goes for the obscure places the locals tend to frequent and that, for some reason, makes this novel sing with emotional and and vitality. Even if you don’t personally know the City like I do, you will grow at least curious about it.

Castro District, notice the rainbow flags
Beyond the City though, is a sweet story of a girl with a unique personality who loves a boy that lives next door but his past behavior has driven a wedge between them. What eventually unfolds is a story so sweet it rivals Anna and St. Clair’s story from Anna. Speaking of Anna, they both show up in this story as Lola’s co-worker’s and let me tell you what a nice surprise it was to see them there.

The story isn’t perfect though (gasp!), I did find the supporting characters plentiful and one-dimensional, I really would have liked to see the relationships fleshed out a bit more, especially between Lola and her estranged mother. Cricket’s sister also has a fascinating role in this story but her paltry personality left her unlikeable, even at the end when she redeems herself. But I understand that would have changed the focus of the story from Lola and her boy next door to Lola and her mother/fathers/neighbor’s sister/baker/dog-walker... you get it. But aside from this the story is wonderfully crafted and transports you to another place. A place where the one you love is right under your nose but getting there feels like half a world away. Stephanie Perkins has the ability to balance story exposition with finely tuned details that creates a world where the reader is transported to another place. The best part about how she does this is her obvious exhaustive research. I applaud her for this story because now T and I can do the “Lola Tour” when she comes to visit me!

Stephanie Perkins is the talented writer behind Lola and Anna and the upcoming Isla and the Happpily Ever After coming out next year.

Just a note that this will be my last book review for SYTYCW for a while. I am putting myself on hiatus to have another baby and look forward to coming back in a few months to tell you all about all the great books I’ve read staying up nursing my baby!

Until we meet again, Happy Reading!

Hardcover Kindle


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