Thursday, January 9, 2014
Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door
The story follows costume-obsessed San Francisco seventeen-year-old Dolores "Lola" Nolan, as what she sees as her uniquely perfect life - hot rocker band guy boyfriend, two loving fathers - comes to a screeching halt, with the reemergence of two figures from her past: Calliope Bell, ice queen (in more ways than just that she's a champion figure skater), and Cricket Bell, Calliope's twin brother, an inventor extraordinaire, who's always been seemingly content to stand in his sister's shadow. However, when it's made clear that not only are the twins coming home for good, but that Cricket's looking to repent for some past misunderstandings, Lola has to figure out which guy is right for her: the boy of her dreams, or the boy next door.
Yes, it's a little sappy and sweet in places, but that's what all good contemporary teen romances are supposed to be, and besides, Perkins does a fantastic job with grounding her romances in a lot of coming-of-age-style personal growth, which is arguably necessary in the novels: growing up is a lot of figuring out how you relate to other people, and it's important to figure out who you are yourself before you get all tangled up in a relationship. Bonus points for the seamless continuation of Anna and Etienne's story from the first novel, too! It's a smart and interesting narrative choice, and I totally love it!
However, despite the fact that this novel was another well-constructed, unique, and engaging, I had a harder time connecting to and understanding Lola and Cricket than I did with Anna and Etienne. It sucks that I feel like I have to make a comparison, because, honestly, it was still a really good book, and had a lot of merits that were different from Anna and the French Kiss, but I still liked the first novel in the series a lot more. I think what it came down to, for me, at least partially, was the integration of the setting as a secondary character in it's own right.
Throughout Anna and the French Kiss, you never once forgot they were in Paris. Stunning imagery and visual direction made the cultural differences have a life of their own, and we learned along with Anna as she explored what became one of her favorite places in the world. As she fell in love with Paris, she fell in love with Etienne; it was almost a natural extension of their blossoming relationship. However, in Lola and the Boy Next Door, you could tell Perkins was really trying to draw out the beauty of California and the Bay Area for you, but it was a lot less susceptible to the Paris treatment. If anything, I think any of the names of the places mentioned could have easily been swapped for a lot of different places in America. It's a good thing to note, then, that Isla and the Happily Ever After takes place, at least partially, in Paris again.
And before I end this post, let me just raise a point really quick: why couldn't we have had the pretty covers in the first place?
I am the kind of person who never, ever likes redesigned covers, but seriously? These are gorgeous! And totally capture the spirit of the books more. This literally has nothing to do with the books themselves, but man, are those covers giving me some feelings.
Anyways, Lola and the Boy Next Door is a great, albeit not perfect, follow up to the precedent of romance and growing up that was so incredibly well done in Anna and the French Kiss. And if you get the chance, by the new editions of both novels, just to tide you over until Isla and the Happily Ever After is released on May 15th.