Book review: ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’ by Stephanie Perkins

In her hometown of San Francisco, 17-year-old Delores “Lola” Nolan is used to standing out — and she prefers it that way. Between her multicolored wigs, outlandish dress and brilliant makeup, Lola attracts attention everywhere she goes. One such admirer is Max, her 22-year-old boyfriend . . . and Lola’s parents are none too happy about it.

But in the cocoon of her comfortable relationship with Max, Lola tries to forget about the first boy who stole her heart: Cricket Bell, her adorable and quirky former next-door neighbor. As Cricket’s twin sister enjoyed stardom as a rising talent in the figure skating world, the Bell family relocated years before . . . much to Lola’s relief. After their friendship soured, being around Cricket — her dear friend; maybe her first love — was torture.

But as soon as Lola gets Cricket off her mind, a moving truck reappears at the Victorian next door. Throw in a well-meaning best friend, over-the-top birth mother and a host of other difficulties and Lola’s life is quickly becoming chaos.

Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door, her sophomore novel and companion to the phenomenal Anna and the French Kiss, was a readable if ultimately flat story. After falling head over heels for Etienne St. Clair in Anna, I was fully prepared to go ga-ga over Cricket — and, you know, I did.

But who I didn’t — and couldn’t — fall for? Lola.

I’m not going to make this a “OMG the first book was so good and this one is just blah” sort of review, but that’s essentially how I feel. Though Lola certainly goes through a transformation from beginning to end, I found her to be a pretty ridiculous, self-centered narrator. I guess that’s how we’re supposed to feel, really, but it just didn’t endear her to me. The costumes and ridiculous makeup and seriously gross, sexual relationship with 22-year-old Max bothered me to the core. Though all the action happens off page, I felt completely skeeved out by the idea that a twenty-something rocker would seduce a teen girl. Creepy, weird and wrong.

And okay. Lola is a teen trying to find her way in the world, sure, and she’s certainly been dealt an unusual hand in life. Her birth mother is a recovering addict who floats in and out of her world — the one she shares with Andy and Nathan, her fathers. Norah’s abrupt reappearance in Lola’s life sends our narrator for a tailspin, and I don’t fault her for that. But her reactions to everything are just so exhausting and dramatic. Everything reduces her to tears or sends her into epic rage fits or has half the neighborhood peeking at her in befuddlement.

It’s just the hormones and teendom, I know, but it was . . . too much.

I loved Cricket but found it slightly unbelievable that he would devote so much time obsessing over . . . Lola. Opposites attract and all that, but he seems so adorably nerdy and sweet that Lola’s wild streak didn’t quite mesh for me. I was surprised to see so many appearances by St. Clair and Anna in this one, too, but every scene involves them talking about how in looooove they are and how “when you know, you know,” etc., and so on, and so forth. As Lola tries to figure out whether her heart lies with Max or the boy next door (and slight spoiler: honestly, do you really not know who she’ll pick?), she looks to Anna and St. Clair’s seemingly perfect relationship as a barometer.

I don’t know. I didn’t dislike this book — I read it very quickly — but it lacked the sparkle of Anna. Part of that is the switch in settings, I’d wager; I’m quickly on my way to becoming a francophile, and the Parisian scenes in Perkins’ debut are to die for. Though I love San Francisco, I’ve never left my “heart there,” so to speak. It didn’t captivate me the way that France did.

And, you know. Cricket is American. Cute — very cute — but American. And St. Clair is British. So in Meg’s Book of Hotness, St. Clair automatically wins.

Fans of Perkins’ first novel and young adult fiction might find Lola and the Boy Next Door to be a fun, if predictable, read. I appreciated the unique characters, but I didn’t want to crush this book in a hug the way I did with Anna.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0525423281 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program

14 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’ by Stephanie Perkins

  1. Waaaaay too much hormones and tears in my life right now to invite it into my reading. While being self-centered is one of the requirements of a teenager, and is realistic, I have no tolerance for it right now!


    • Totally understandable, Sandy. Though I think Perkins’ portrayal of Lola is realistic and I know that I certainly acted this way once upon a time, it’s a little tough to stomach after the fact.


  2. I 100% agree with your review. I liked the book, just didn’t LOVE it. It was ok. And I almost felt like the constant appearances of Anna and St. Clair almost cheapened their own story.


    • I have to agree with you, Jen. Anna and St. Clair felt like silly, nonsensical shells of their former selves, and I felt like rolling my eyes every time they appeared — you know, making out and groping one another and talking about fate and whatnot. Bleh.


  3. I’ve heard from other people that they felt similarly. I think when you have a book like “Anna” that gets so much positive hype and feedback, anything that comes after it, no matter how good or bad, is going to fall flat a little bit. I still want to read it, because I’m like that, but I hope that third companion book returns to France.


    • I hope it returns to France, too! And you’re right, Meredith; when a debut is so beloved, the follow-up is always bound to fall a little flat. The scrutiny is just too intense.


  4. That’s a bummer to see that Lola and the Boy Next Door didn’t live up to its predecessor. I haven’t read Perkins other book yet, but I’ve seen so many wonderful reviews of it that I was looking forward to reading both books. I’ll have to remember to keep my expectations in check when I pick up this one then.


  5. I’m bummed to hear this wasn’t as good as ANNA! I can definitely understand some of your frustrations though. I can’t wait to get a copy to try it myself.


  6. Oh drat. I’d just reread Anna a few weeks ago and was looking forward to this. I think I’m going to skip it if only to keep Anna and St. Clair intact. It’s one thing to write a ho-hum second book, it’s another thing entirely to drag brilliant characters into it. Boo.


  7. Pingback: Stephanie Perkins – Lola and the Boy Next Door « Fyrefly's Book Blog

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