The Story: Lola is very content in her life. She’s got an amazing boyfriend (so what if he’s 5 years older than her?), she has a happy home life with her two dads and her dog, Heavens to Betsy (Betsy, for short). She has a decent job, and her best friend, Lindsay, sticks by her through and through. She also has a very creative style all her own and is very comfortable in her own skin. Everything is find and dandy until her old neighbors move back to the house next door. Calliope and Cricket Bell, twins who she has known since Kindergarten are back in her life. Calliope still threatens to make Lola’s life miserable, and Cricket (who broke her heart once upon a time) is bringing back some old warm and fuzzy feelings that she thought were gone forever.
The Low Down: In this companion to Anna and the French Kiss, I was looking for another similar love story where you can’t help but root for the guy and the girl to overcome their differences, fall in love, and live happily ever after. The romance was there, in true Stephanie Perkins fashion, however, I didn’t like Lola nearly as much as Anna, mostly because I was NOT a fan of Lola’s character.
Lola likes to become different people. Not in a multiple personality disorder kind of way. She likes to explore her style and is usually wearing a variety of outfits to complement whatever she’s feeling for the day. Every day she wants to be someone different. At first, I thought this was awesome. Props to a girl who is confident in herself and doesn’t mind showing who she really is! However. I became increasingly more frustrated with Lola’s character because she was so eccentric that it was off-putting.
In one scene, she describes herself as wearing “a long black wig with straight bangs, a white dress I made from a bedsheet, chunky golden jewelry, and – of course – ancient Egyptian eyes drawn in kohl.” She wears this to school and then gets disgusted when the “jocks” make fun and say crude things. Gee. I never thought that would happen when you dress like it’s Halloween every day.
As the book went on, I just found myself thinking that this book isn’t about a teenage girl with a crush… this is about a little girl playing dress up who has no grasp on real life. But that’s where the moral of the story lies. Cricket, the boy next door with a heart of gold, accepts her no matter what. He loves her crazy outfits and feels she’s not herself if she’s not dressed up in some bizarre get up. Which, anyone can admit, is awesome and sweet. But as a reader, I had no emotional feeling toward Lola and could not relate to or appreciate her character at all. (*SEMI-SPOILER*) I even cheered a little when her boyfriend told her off for being a liar and a fake. Her boyfriend is a jerk, but I still found myself agreeing when he said she was just a little girl with a lot of issues.
Despite my rants about Lola’s character, Lola is faced with some very real life drama and situations. Like Anna, this book about Lola throws in a lot of heavy issues without being preachy. Lola is being raised by two gay parents, Nathan and Andy, who she adores. They adopted her when she was a baby from Lola’s birth mother, Norah, who is Nathan’s sister. Norah is a semi-clean, semi-homeless addict who always pops back into Lola’s life when she gets in trouble, often running to her brother for help. In addition to all that, her boyfriend is quite a bit older (which gives us a 17-year-old dating a 22-year-old). Needless to say, this causes a lot of concern and tension between her and her parents. Cricket is dealing with his own set of issues. An all around good guy (almost too good to be true), he sacrificed his entire life to move around with his twin sister, who is a professional figure skater and Olympic hopeful. There are a lot of different dynamics among all the families and relationships, which is worth noting and appreciating.
For me, the highlight of Lola were the scenes with Anna and Etienne (I flailed when they first appeared), being even more adorable than they were in Anna, and even giving out relationship advice every now and then. It was nice to have them around in this story.
The Bottom Line: Even though I did not care for Lola’s character, Lola and the Boy Next Door is still an adorable, light romantic drama for teens. Like Anna and the French Kiss, it is a quick and easy read, and should appeal to many fans of young romance, provided they can get past Lola’s eccentricities.
OFFICIAL RATING: 7/10