Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie PerkinsLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (review copy) - WARNING! I cannot review this book without spoiling the others in the series. Read no further if you're planning on reading this series and don't want it spoilt for you.

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion... she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola's past be the love of her future?
From Goodreads

I picked up Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins as soon as I finished the first book in the trilogy, Anna and the French Kiss. I enjoyed it so much, I was eager to read more of Perkins' romances. And Lola and the Boy Next Door is just as sweet as the first!

Lola's life is great. She's got a hot, older boyfriend, Max, who is in a band, and she has come up with the perfect outfit for the Winter Formal - she will be going dressed like Marie Antoinette. It's not a fancy dress party, Lola is just very creatively expressive when it comes to her outfits, and she likes her look to be out-there. The only downer to her life at the moment is that her parents don't like her boyfriend, but life is pretty peachy. Until the Bell twins move back next door. Lola and the Bell twins have history, especially her and Cricket Bell, and she's flooded with bad memories. But seeing Cricket again is not being back just the bad memories, but also the feelings too. Lola is perfectly happy and in love with Max, so why do these feelings keep intruding?

As I said, Lola and the Boy Next Door is as sweet a story as the first book in the trilogy. Just as beautiful, and did make me "aww!" quite a bit. I wasn't necessarily the biggest fan of Lola and Cricket as people though. I didn't dislike them, I just didn't particularly warm to them. I don't really understand Lola and her desire to look different. I'm not really into fashion in any kind of way, so that whole side of thing wasn't something I could relate to or had much interest in. Saying that, it's really awesome that Perkins has given her protagonists interests that we don't read so much of in YA; Anna and her love of movies and film reviews in the first book, and now Lola with her love of costume design. Pretty cool. Cricket was a nice guy, really cute, kind of introverted, but very bold for the person he is - a guy who actually says how he feels! This is not a book where anyone can complain about the characters not communicating, Cricket lays it out there pretty early on. He's shy, embarrasses easily, and is a little awkward and geeky, but he's cute - as a person. As Lola is so interested in fashion and costume, she mentions the kind of thing Cricket wears several times - scarves, proper trousers purposely too short to show off socks and pointy shoes. Really not my type of guy at all, and so I couldn't find this character fanciable. But this is a story where you don't necessarily have to love the characters to root for them, and Lola and Cricket were very cute together!

But yet Lola has a boyfriend. And this is where this book is slightly different from Anna and the French Kiss - it got me thinking about moral issues. Lola is in a similar situation Étienne was in in the previous book, but as we see it from her point of view, it got me thinking. Lola does some not-so-great things and makes some bad decisions when it comes to her relationship with Max in regards to her friendship with Cricket, like lying and failing to mention things. Max really is a piece of work, and really not a nice guy - so jealous, and mean with it. However, Lola's situation got me thinking generally about what qualifies as cheating. If you're not actually doing anything with another person - no physical romantic/sexual contact - you're not doing anything wrong, right? But just because you're not doing anything, if feelings develop, then surely just hanging out with them is the wrong thing? Where's the line, and when does someone cross it? Does simply thinking about someone else count? Developing feelings? Or simply hanging out with them? Or is all that ok? I'm on the side of it not being ok, but I don't quite know where you start crossing the line.

I have to mention Lola's parents - not because it's a big deal, but because it's awesome. Lola and the Boy Next Door is the first book I've read where a character has same-sex parents. It's also the first book I've heard of where the fact that the parents are the same sex isn't integral to the plot. Lola just has two Dads, no big deal. It isn't to her, it isn't to anyone else. The fact that her parents are gay, and what that's like for Lola, comes up now and again, but it's not in anyway a major focus point. Like Anna and the French Kiss, there is some family drama in this book, but that's more to do with Lola's birth mother, Norah - her Dad Nathan's younger sister - and how she affects them, but nothing to do with sexuality. And it's awesome. They're just another family, and I love it! I hope other authors will follow in Perkins lead about things like this, so we get to the point where same-sex parents is so normal, it's not something to feel is awesome or exciting. It just is.

Lastly, I want to talk about Anna and Étienne. They're in this book! And I loved that they are! I don't think you can call their presence in the book a cameo, because cameos are so brief. Anna and Étienne appear quite often throughout the novel; Anna works at the same cinema Lola works at, Étienne is pretty much there whenever Anna is, but Étienne also lives in the same dorm as Cricket, who also attends Berkeley. They're not acquaintances, these people, they're friends. They talk, they offer advice, and we get to be kept updated on the goings on in Anna and Étienne's lives. It's so cool! And from what happens in this book, and from what I've read about the final book in the trilogy, Isla and the Happily Ever After, we'll see these four appearing in that book too! And I'm really looking forward to reading it!

Thank you to Usborne for the review copy.

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Published: 1st June 2014
Publisher: Usborne
Stephanie Perkins' Website

My other reviews from the series:
Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss Book 1)

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