Second Look: LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next DoorThe 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

Curious to hear more about Anna and the French Kiss? Check out AtLP’s review here!

Second Look: PERFECT SCOUNDRELS by Ally Carter

Kat and her whole crew are back in the third Heist Society installment for her most difficult caper yet.

February 5, 2013

The Story: Kat Bishop has been in a lot of sticky situations, but she may be a little in over her head in this one. When Hale inherits his family’s company after the sudden death of his grandmother, Marcus (Hale’s loyal and ever-present butler) alerts Kat that not all is kosher at Hale Industries. He suspects the will may have been tampered with and this time Hale isn’t in on the con… he’s the mark. If Marcus’s theory is true, Kat will have to risk everything, including her relationship with Hale, to right the wrong and catch the bad guy.

The Low Down:  Ally Carter continues to be awesome with her newest novel in the Heist Society series. She brilliantly writes seamless storylines and unbelievable complex cons with a loveable group of characters and her signature wit.

Though this is different from the other HS novels in one respect: Hale is simply not the same Hale every female reader fell in love with. Don’t get me wrong, his grandmother died and his inheritance was a lie. The kid has a reason to be sad and pissy. But Hale’s usual snarkiness and sense of humor was definitely missed. If anything, though, it gave more dimension to his character. Hale isn’t just some handsome, rich, teenage playboy. He has another side of him that does care what his family thinks, despite what he claims. So even though I was disappointed to not see the Hale I know and love, I can appreciate learning more about his character.

On the plus side, we’re introduced to almost everyone in Kat’s thieving family (including a hilariously naked Uncle Felix) while Kat tries to run the biggest con of her teenage life. But we also get an inside look at Hale’s family as well. Parents, cousins, aunts, uncles (including a long lost uncle which may or may not be Uncle Eddie) are all introduced. Family dynamics are a big theme in this novel, and by the end we have a better understanding of Hale’s real family (FYI: A very kind note from an unexpected character may make you tear up).

Extra Goodies: 

  • Quote Props. If you’re familiar with our Quote Props feature, you may know that every so often AtLP highlights quotes from books that we find particularly poignant, well-written, and (more commonly) downright hilarious. Ally Carter has provided us with an entire book’s worth of Quote Props with Perfect Scoundrels.

The Bottom Line: In typical Ally Carter fashion, Perfect Scoundrels is full of brilliant plans, witty quips, and a full cast of quirky characters. Despite having a bit of a darker element than the other Heist Society novels, this one is just as fun as the others.  It’s sure  to draw readers in for a quick, easy read that’s full of intriguing and hilarious con-men action.

OFFICIAL RATING: 9/10

P.S. Don’t forget to check out Double Crossed, Ally Carter’s short story featuring characters from both the Heist Society AND Gallagher Girls series!

Second Look: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway

PLOT:
April, May and June are very special sisters. One morning the three randomly develop weird and wonderful powers. They quickly realize that their secrets aren’t so secret anymore, since April can see the future, May can disappear and travel anywhere she wants without being seen, and June can read minds. Just when it seems like their newfound powers will drive them even farther apart, April sees a vision that will bring them together whether they like it or not.

CHARACTERS:
Anyone with two siblings can easily relate to the first, middle, and third child syndrome that the main characters have. April, age 16 and the oldest, is the sister that’s large and in charge. She’s not bossy, but has a maternal air about her. She’s studious, orderly, a control freak, and likes things the way she likes them. May, the middle child, always feels invisible. She’s just trying to find out who she is, and being sandwiched between her sisters makes this feel impossible to her. June is the typical annoying younger sister. She’s 14 and succumbs easily to peer pressure has a bit of a rebellious streak in her when it means earning points with the school’s popularity princess, Mariah. She’s obsessed with popularity, friends, makeup, clothes, and everything else that reeks of teenybopperness. Once she starts reading minds, she takes “annoying” to a whole new level.

EXTRA GOODIES:

  • SUPERPOWERS! What would YOU do if you had them?
  • You’ve heard of love/hate relationships? Well this story has love/hate love interests. It makes the romance portion of our program that much more fun.

OPINION:
These girls were a lot of fun to read about. Though June got on my nerves (A LOT), as any little sister would, May’s sense of humor kept me cracking up throughout the story. April was high strung big sister I never wanted, but I can’t hold it against her. You’d be high strung too if you had a psychic vision of yourself losing your virginity to the random, unknown dude you happen to share locker space with. Watching the sisters learn how to handle their powers was a total trip and understanding where the story was headed was like taking a mini adventure. Though I wouldn’t necessarily call this a coming of age novel, we see the girls grow and learn about life, love, and each other. Similar to her other novel, Audrey, Wait!, Robin Benway once again hits a homer with her addictive, fast paced, laugh-out-loud writing. This most definitely is a stand-alone novel and I don’t foresee and sequel, however I would love to see what else the sisters learn to do with their powers. While The Extraordinary Secrets has a bit more suggestive content and strong language than Audrey, Wait!, it’s still a sure hit for young teens and reluctant readers.

OFFICIAL RATING: 8/10