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