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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

REVIEW: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

5 of 5 Stars

A Super Thank You to my dear friend Jennifer from San Francisco for bringing me this book on her trip to Australia!!! How appropriate that this book is set in San Francisco. ^_^ I loved the setting! Having been to San Fran 2 years ago, I liked that I had images of some of the places mentioned in the book, from experience, not just from seeing it on TV.

Oh. My. Anna and the French Kiss (Anna) was such a wonderful read – one of my favourites of this year – so I thought it highly probable that I would also enjoy Lola and the Boy Next Door (Lola). I was wrong. I freakin’ LOVED it!!!

What started off as an engaging and enjoyable enough read – I’ll be honest, I was thinking it was more of a 4-Star read for about the first half – had me up until after 2am, on a worknight, as I just HAD TO finish it . I was literally grinning from ear to ear and feeling elated and giddy as I drifted off to sleep. Dare I say it that I think I may even love it more than Anna? Hmm…Though I may change my mind again when I re-read Anna. Because I was certainly grinning silly after finishing Anna, too!

Lola is a sort of “sequel” to Anna. In Lola, we get to see Anna and Etienne, as secondary characters, in San Francisco attending college. Anna works with Lola at a movie theatre and Etienne St. Clair is, of course, wherever Anna is. These two are so cute together. I really wish the author didn’t have to keep reminding us readers, though, that St. Clair is short. We get it. He’s super cute and charming, with his adorable British accent…and short. Being someone short, myself, I just felt, is mentioning his height so often really relevant? Or maybe that’s just my own height issues coming out…Hmm… ^_^

Anyway, back to Lola…Lola is into costumes, in a big way. Every day is an opportunity to be different and she dresses in colourful outfits and wigs. Her dream is to one day win an award for Costume design for films. Her best friend, Lindsey Lim, is a Nancy Drew aficionado and wannabe. I liked how Lola and Lindsey were not your usual high school girls. They were different and interesting characters, but still relatable in their teen confusions and fears about love and relationships. Lola, attempting to assert her independence by going out with a twenty two year old rocker that her gay dads do not approve of. And Lindsey, determined not to get involved in relationships as it would distract her from her goals.

The story begins with Lola’s neighbours, the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, moving back into the neighbourhood. Lola and Cricket have history and their unresolved feelings shake things up for Lola.

I LOVED Cricket Bell … well, except for his name. ^_^ He is sweet, smart, adorable, caring and just so NICE....and not in a boring "he's nice" way but in a "how-can-you-not-love-him?!" nice way. He’s an inventor. It’s in his genes, being a descendant of the famous Alexander Graham Bell, who is credited with inventing the telephone. I really liked finding out some interesting alternate history in relation to Bell.

Cricket is 6’4’ (without taking into account his high hair) and lanky, though he’s filled out somewhat since Lola saw him 2 years ago. And we were told many times that Cricket is “tall”. Strangely, this didn’t bother me as much the mentions of Etienne being “short”. Hmm…It really MUST BE my own “short issues”, then, rising to the fore! :-P

I loved seeing Cricket come out from the shadow of his Olympic hopeful figure skater sister, Calliope. I liked how deftly Ms. Perkins enabled me, as a reader, to go from really disliking Calliope to actually sympathising with her.

Cricket is so romantic, in an unintentional way. He is so “there” for Lola and understands her and loves her for the colourful and creative person she is. There are some scenes about the moon and stars in here that some may find cheesy but had me positively sighing and swooning.

I loved how Lola understood Cricket, too, and how they both helped each other see that what they saw as inadequacies in themselves were the things that made them special and was what they loved about each other.

I loved how Ms. Perkins portrayed Lola’s and Cricket’s friendship, and their physical attraction and emotional connection to each other. I loved their dialogue and all their conversations across the space between their bedroom windows. Stephanie Perkins is adept at building the tension and longing between Cricket and Lola and she electrifies a scene with the significant looks and little touches between Lola and Cricket.

"And then...I'm aware of another presence.
Cricket stands behind me. The faintest touch of a finger against the back of my silk kimono. I close my eyes. I understand his compulsion, his need to touch. As my parents burst into congratulating Calliope, I slide one hand behind my back. I feel him jerk away in surprise, but I find his hand, and I take it into mine. And I stroke the tender skin down the center of his palm. Just once.
He doesn't make a sound. But he is still, so still.
I let go, and suddenly my hand is in his. He repeats the action back. One finger, slowly, down the center of my palm.
I cannot stay silent. I gasp."
Like Anna and the French Kiss, Ms Stephenie Perkins penned yet another sweet romance with likable characters.

I must say, though, that I do wish that YA book writers and/or publishers would stop with the “love triangles” already. It seems like it’s a “must” in YA books now and I really wish it wasn’t. Lola’s boyfriend, Max, starts out as a nice enough guy but turns into a real jerk in this book (which was a bit too easy), so there was no competition and no “teams” to take in this one. My main issue is that I don’t like having one of the characters being in a relationship with someone else when they are in love, or falling in love, with another. It takes away from my full enjoyment of the story as I don’t like reading about cheating. While there is no overt physical cheating going on in this story, there are emotions involved. And even if one of the characters in the relationship is a total jerk, it doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation.

I did, however, appreciate how Stephanie Perkins dealt with this from the point-of-view of having Lola realise she had done wrong by Max (and herself and Cricket) by being in denial of her feelings for Cricket and hiding her friendship with Cricket from Max. I loved how Cricket was such a gentleman, but he really struggled to keep away from Lola and wanted to be her friend, even though it killed him.

One other part in the story that I really appreciated, and which showed Lola's growth, was how Lola realised that she wanted to be "whole"/"full" before she could be in a relationship with Cricket, and I loved how understanding and patient Cricket was. I just love Lola and Cricket together!

Anyway...I suspect “love triangles” may be around for some time yet in YA, but I do hope it won’t be in Isla and the Happily Ever After! Pretty please, Ms. Perkins!! With Belgian chocolate on top? ^_^

That being said, did I mention that I LOVED this? Now I just hope I haven’t hyped it up!! This may not be a perfect book but it was a perfectly splendid book for me, right now.

Hmm… I better get to finally writing my review for Anna and the French Kiss now, hadn’t I?

On a more serious note, this particular scene below made me so teary and was scary because it is so true:
"Because that’s the thing about depression. When I feel it deeply, I don’t want to let it go. It becomes a comfort. I want to cloak myself under its heavy weight and breathe it into my lungs. I want to nurture it, grow it, cultivate it. It’s mine. I want to check out with it, drift asleep wrapped in its arms and not wake up for a long, long time.”
I know this feeling all too well.

P.S. I love the message in the Acknowledgements to the author's husband, and how he was her real life inspiration for a scene in this book in relation to Cricket and also Lindsey and her red Chucks. So cute! ^_^

My Lola (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) And 
My Cricket (Arthur Sales)
Lola, Costumer Extraordinaire.
Cricket, the cute, sexy inventor, and childhood sweetheart.

Lola is disconcerted when Cricket returns to the neighbourhood.
Lola's heart lurched the very first time she saw Cricket in pants. In nice pants. (She's also partial to his "difficult equation face" ^_^)
It hurts to look at Cricket looking so good in pants. ^_^

When she isn't wearing a wig, Lola is a brunette.

Cricket, he's sweet, reliable and his hair defies gravity.

And, boy, does he look good sleepy and disoriented, when Lola wakes him in the early hours by chucking bobby pins at his bedroom window.



  1. I didn't like I could love this book more than I loved Anna and the French Kiss, but it was definitely a close race! I loved Cricket so much and the annoying external view of Anna and St. Clair definitely skewed my opinion on that couple making Lola and Cricket take the lead. I read it in only a few days and just couldn't put it down...maybe because aspects of Lola reminded me of my high school self, or maybe because I just loved Cricket so much.

  2. I loved your review and agreed on Perkins being my new fav author of teen romances!

  3. @Espana: Sorry for the delay in replying, Espana. Yes, I wasn't sure I could love this book more than Anna and the French Kiss but I think I did... because I loved Cricket more than I loved St. Clair. ^_^ Thanks for your comment!

    @bj neary: Thanks for your comment, bj! Yes, I've really enjoyed both Anna and Lola. It's a shame we have to wait until next year for Isla and the Happily Ever After, but I'm really looking forward to it! ^_^

  4. I agree with your review, i read the book in just a day and a half and i am sad is over but just like Anna the ending was worth it.