“But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.”
Lola and the Boy Next Door is an utterly adorable read, grasping the realness of that fine line between friendship and romance. A retelling of that “boy next door” classic love story, our main protagonist Lola undergo’s emotional turmoil as she must choose between the man that once broke her heart and the man who may not be fit for her heart. On top of Lola’s romantic frustrations, Perkins’ novel discusses bullying, peer pressure, familial struggles and expectations, LGBTQA+ relationships, and that ultimate desire to either fit in or stand out. A fun and fast read, Lola and the Boy Next Door is a grand coming of age romance that won’t disappoint the little romantic inside of you.
Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anne and the French Kiss #2)
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Age Group & Genre(s): Coming of Age, Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Point of View: First Person
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: 2011
Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the 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.
There are minor spoilers to the story in this review; please do not read further if you wish to have the story completely unspoiled.
After reading Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss, I immediately went to the public library and borrowed the other two books in the series. Contrary to popular opinion, I enjoyed Lola and the Boy Next Door incredibly more so than its predecessor. Though the setting’s definitely less romantic, the characters and the overall mood of the story’s much more entertaining and thrilling. I found a deeper connection with the characters and believed in the romance so much more than the first novel.
Similar to Anna and the French Kiss, sexual references are very PG in comparison to a number of other YA novels published today.
More realistic love story
In contrast to its predecessor, the love story in Lola and the Boy Next Door has depth and substance. Since Lola and Cricket have known one another most of their lives, her “instant” feelings for him garner more realism than this unrealistic and idealistic “instalove” going around in literature; she already knows an abundance about him and previously fell for him, hence her incredibly quick desires for him our raw and authentic.
Fluid story, easy to follow
Similar to Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss and a number of other YA romance novels, the story is very linear; the story flows in one primary direction, making it easy to navigate through while reading nearly 400 pages of romantic turmoil. Even though Perkins’ adds additional side stories, the story never loses track of the main plot line yet is still able to gather interest from different elements happening to other characters beyond Lola.
Amazing heroine & cast of characters
Lola’s a hilariously witty and independent character, ready to take on the world with her quirky personality and unique sense of style. Though she struggles with her confidence a little bit in the novel, she stays true to her eccentric sense of fashion and optimistic outlook on life. It was great to read a novel where some “super pretty and most popular girl” or “cute and very shy girl” aren’t the heroine’s – it’s the person who stands out from the crowd that, unfortunately, a lot of society deems as “abnormal” or “weird”.
Lola’s friends, love interests, and family members are also really wonderful to explore. Personally, I really enjoyed her dads; they’re very different personalities but they’re very sweet to one another and to Lola. Additionally, Perkins brings back St. Clair and Anna from Anna and the French Kiss as side characters! It was great to see what happened to them and to have some dialogue between them and Lola.
Perkins does a fantastic job of not falling into the romantic novel stereotypes when it comes to her cast of characters, moving away from the “superstar-guy-and-perfect-gal-fall-in-love” shenanigans. We have: an eccentric female with a sexy engineer genius, two fathers who defy the “gay” stereotypes, a couple where the male is shorter than the female (yes…this is a big deal), and much more. Not only is this refreshing, but it opens up to a wider audience and defies what’s the norm.
Variety of intriguing subplots
The main story is fairly interesting…following a female lead who struggles between a man from her past and a man she may not be compatible with. However, the subplots and side stories really helped develop not only the story but the characters. There’s LGBTQ+ issues discussed on a family perspective, drug and alcohol abuse, long distance relationships, familial peer pressures, and a lot of other focuses. Perkins does a grand job exploring these issues and trying to close them up neatly by the end of the novel.
Morals in the story…again…
This section contains spoilers!
Yet again, Perkins’ novel condones the act of cheating in her YA romance novel. As I’ve said multiple times, I love flawed characters in novels…but I’m so sick and tired of novels glorifying the act of cheating; you don’t need this to create a romantic novel.
The point I’m trying to drive home is that the younger generation reads this series; hence, we should be teaching more respectful and responsible values, not that cheating has no consequences. What I did appreciate in this novel in comparison to Anna and the French Kiss is that Lola’s parents discuss the hurt and emotional irresponsibility when you cheat, demonstrating the importance of considering everyone’s feelings before making certain decisions.
The story’s wonderfully intriguing as it explores a wide number of interesting subplots while still focusing strongly on the main plot…nevertheless, there are a few sections where it just fell REALLY slooooowwwww. The continuous back and forth of Lola deciding between the two men in her life could’ve sped up a bit and I would’ve liked more “action” between Lola and her fathers and her mother…other than that though, I really have no idea why it felt slow to me.
Almost done…wait, what?!
So…I’m not really sure what happened, but the book just kind of ended. The big “spoiler” that Lola was preparing for is about to come up at the end…and then it just ended. Honestly, I was at a loss for words. I was expecting one or two more chapters to close the story off, but that obviously didn’t happen…which was EXTREMELY disappointing. Thus, I was left feeling this lack of completion and fulfillment I usually feel when I finish a book.
Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door is a joyous and breezy read, the perfect novel to cuddle up with on your couch or bed or patio furniture on these warm and sunny days. The characters have more depth and the story line’s more intriguing than it’s predecessor. Sure, the ending was abrupt and brutal…but there could be worse things about the novel. Lola and the Boy Next Door is perfect for someone seeking a cheesy yet very romantic novel that defies the norms and gives you that sense of hope at the end.