LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR
Contemporary Young Adult
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit–more sparkly, more fun, more wild–the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.
When Cricket–a gifted inventor–steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
Cute, quirky, and ripe with romantic tension, Lola and the Boy Next Door shows us yet again how capable Ms. Perkins is at writing relationships that have us pinging back and forth on the emotional spectrum, laughing one minute and then finding our hearts plummeting vicariously the next. While reading we can’t help but surreptitiously glance out our windows in slightly obsessive fashion, hoping that by some fortuitous circumstance a beautifully perfect-for-us boy has spontaneously relocated next door and he’s just now waiting for us to look up again to begin our dopey grin-inspiring romance. Like Anna and St. Clair before them, Lola and Cricket are characters we get a 360 degree picture of despite the flatness of the pages on which they exist, and we revel in their laughter and their drama as we treasure their story for days and weeks after reading.
Lola is funky and unique, living her life in costumes that allow her to express her exuberance and personality while also helping to hide some of the pain and embarrassment caused by her birth mother’s unfortunate life choices. She’s not quite as adorably endearing as Anna, perhaps due to the fact that in this tale it is she who is juggling the progression of one relationship with the desire to explore a completely different one, and so her inner conflict often leads her to some poor decisions that hurt those around her. While her flaws are of course realistic and certainly forgivable, our desire to see her with Cricket is just so strong that every time she defaults to Max our heart gives an extra little throb of pain.
Cricket is sweet and charming in an understated way, his charisma not quite radiating from the pages as St. Clair’s did, but his more quiet desire to remedy the misunderstandings of his shared past with Lola is equally appealing. It’s both painful and amusing to watch the two of them communicate using everything but the words they most need to say as well as hear in return from the other, a feeling we can all relate to at some point or another in our own lives. The crackling tension resulting from all that’s left unaddressed is seductively tortuous, wrapping around us tightly until our muscles object to the rigidity of our posture, yet we can’t bring ourselves to let up for a moment until we reach the end of Lola and Cricket’s story.
Though overall a touch less delectable than Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door does beautifully give us something Anna didn’t—the incorporation of Lola and Cricket’s families. Lola’s dads are hugely involved in her life and are a pleasure to read about, their family conflicts providing believable drama and causing our view of everyone as a whole to rotate those last few degrees and bring us full circle. Ms. Perkins has a gift for writing wistfully romantic stories that still manage to be grounded in reality, sating our need for sweetness while keeping us from going into sugar shock with the perfect amount of angst and emotional turmoil. The wait for her next book will no doubt test the limits of our patience, but we can take comfort in knowing our time spent counting the days will be well worth it.