As promised, I started reading Lola and the Boy Next Door as soon as I finished Anna and the French Kiss, 518 DAYS AGO. And now, fresh off my achievement of reading for all 24 hours in Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, I have decided to post my review of a book I read a year and a half ago. Sorry.
Dolores Nolan (aka Lola) is a budding fashionista with a seemingly perfect life. Hot slightly-older rocker boyfriend. Loving gay dads. Witty and ‘adorkable’ best friend. And she has a resolution to not wear the same get-up twice in a year. I thought she was what Lily from Modern Family would look like when she grows up.
Then her world turns upside down when her childhood friends-turned-enemies the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, come back to live next door. Here, I am going to digress and just take a moment to wonder why anyone who is not a Hollywood celebrity name their son Cricket. Why couldn’t the poor guy be called Caleb/Cameron/Cary/Carter/anything even remotely name-like?! Some may find it endearing but I, for one, couldn’t find being named after a sport/insect adorable in any way.
Anyway, I knew that Lola and the Boy Next Door was a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss – not a sequel – but I wasn’t prepared for such a different voice. Yes, Lola is a new character, but for some reason, I just expected to bond with her on page one the way I had with Anna. I loved her flamboyancy and self-expression. She just came off as really immature at times, from her justifications for her boyfriend Max’s rude attitude to her destructive tantrums she had when she was upset. I felt that even by the end of the novel she had yet to show substantial growth, as she put a lot of stock in what others thought of her habit of making and wearing costumes So maybe the bond was not formed, but I did end up enjoying Lola and her story.
Cricket Bell adds a nice delicious layer to Lola’s heart struggles. He’s a hard one to resist. I liked that he was as endearing as St. Clair, but he didn’t seem like a recycled version of the boy who had already stolen my heart. Cricket is sweeter and shyer than St. Clair. He doesn’t have that strong charisma and sense of self. In many ways, he is a mirror of Lola. Neither of these characters sees themselves clearly in the beginning. Cricket is the handsome nerd who gravitates toward the girl he has known his whole life who is full of sparkles and light. I loved that he knew what he wanted and never wavered – even when Lola was being difficult. What didn’t work for me was how, despite her exceptional skill at sketching likable hot boys, Perkins made Cricket sound like such a doormat. Or maybe I just need to stop reading romance written for gushy teenagers.
I was also originally pleased to see Anna and Étienne in the story. I had assumed that they appeared in the book much later—towards the end—rather than showing up throughout the story. But it didn’t really feel like they were the same characters. I had thought previously that they were both interesting, independent characters yet they sort of blurred into one. However, this may be because we’re seeing them through Lola’s perspective and she could be focusing on that fact that they’re clearly a very happy couple. I also just found out that Stephanie Perkins wrote Lola first, so that also could be why.
Aside from the romance, Lola and the Boy Next Door addresses issues surrounding families and friendship and handles it in such a way that makes the story incredibly human and relatable. I find it really difficult to criticize a book like this, because it’s exactly what I expected it to be. Adorable, fun and fast-paced. It was predictable, but I’ll be honest, if it had ended in a way that wasn’t described in the title, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have been a happy camper.
So bottom line, this book is either for you or it’s not, depending on what you’re looking for. If it’s not your kind of thing, then skip it, but if it is, you’ll be instantly enthralled in Lola’s pie baking, glasses breaking, Marie Antoinette gown crafting, moon chatting and tea reading adventures. I just liked it for the cute nerd.