Sunday, 27 March 2016

'Lola and the Boy Next Door' (Anna and the French Kiss #2) by Stephanie Perkins

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

I read 'Anna and the French Kiss' just over a year ago, and while I'd been intending to continue on with the series much earlier than this, I just kept procrastinating. I'm not sure why - I think Stephanie Perkins writing is delightful, and the reads are quick and easy - but something about 'Lola and the Boy Next Door' just didn't make me want to pick it up.
As you can imagine from the title of the book, Lola Nolan lives next to a boy, Cricket Bell (the great-great-great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone). Cricket and his twin sister, Calliope, have just moved back into the house next door after moving away a few years ago - their departure broke Lola's heart, and she genuinely wishes she never had to see either of the Bell twins again.
But of course, life is cruel. Lola is happy with her boyfriend Max (she's 17 and he's 22, so her parents don't approve, and Lola's life 'would be so much easier if they just accepted that Max is the one') and she doesn't need the reappearance of a well-dressed Cricket to flip her world upside down.
There were things I liked about 'Lola...' more than 'Anna...' and things that I liked much less. I was glad that there was no cheating in this book (Anna and her boyfriend, St. Clair, cheat on their respective partners with each other, which seemed unnecessary when they were both convinced the other one was The One) despite the fact that Lola and Cricket had opportunities in which they could have sneaked around behind Max's back. When Lola eventually dumps Max, she also waits three months before her and Cricket officially become a couple, because she feels as though she needs to rediscover herself. This is realistic and is very respectful towards her time with Max - they're in a serious relationship, she loses her virginity to him and wonders if they'll have a future together - and in real life people would definitely take some time to themselves following a break up like that.
However, I just didn't like Lola as a character much. She was a bit too quirky for me to deal with (one of the first sentences is 'I don't believe in fashion. I believe in costume.') and her constant struggle to be different and unique - going so far as never wearing the same outfit twice - it's just exhausting to read because she's very high maintenance. She grew on me by the end of the novel, but I still didn't really care that much.
I did love the fact that her parents were a gay couple, though. I hadn't read that in a YA book before, and the dynamic between Lola and both of her dads (and her birth mother, Norah, the brother of her father Nathan) was heartwarming to read and was a perfect example of why gay couples should be allowed - even encouraged - to adopt. I also thought the subplot dealing with Lola and her relationship with Norah was fascinating, as Norah was a recovering addict and that was dealt with beautifully.
I also thought it was just a tad on the too cliched side. Girl has her first kiss with the boy next door, he moves away, then he moves back and they fall deeply in love... It's a bit too gooey. I know that that's the whole point of the Stephanie Perkins books, but it made it predictable and overly cheesy. I did enjoy it, but I feel as though it's aimed towards a much more optimistic reader who believes in everlasting first love. 

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