Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

I have mentioned before that I was hesitant to read Stephanie Perkins' debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss.  Both the title and the cover seemed too cheesy for me.  But once I got started, I tore through it in about a day.  I feel absolutely in love with it.  So when I realized that my local library didn't have a copy of Perkins' sophomore novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, I ordered it through inter-library loan and waited anxiously for it to arrive.

But once I actually got it, I let it sit for a few days.  True, it happened to arrive during a particularly busy week for me.  But I was also a little worried.... what if the same magic wasn't there?  A large part of the reason that I loved Anna so much was because it reminded me so vividly of my own experiences studying abroad and traveling through Europe.  But Lola is set in San Francisco, and the title character is a high school student who prefers "costume" to "fashion."  (I, on the other hand, do not pay much attention to either.)

At first, this novel's characters all seemed like they were too extreme.  There's Lola, the dramatic costume designer who is never quite sure which version is her real self.  And her two gay dads, who are emotionally aware, overprotective, and supportive..  And her boyfriend, Max, 22 years old to Lola's 17, a heavily tattooed rocker who always dresses in black and has somewhat of an anger problem.  The sweet boy next door, Cricket, who has always been in love with her and will do anything to win her (and also happens to be a talented inventor).  And Cricket's twin sister, Calliope, an Olympic-hopeful figure skater, with an icy, stuck-up, impermeable personality to match.

But.  Somehow it just works.  It never feels forced or overdone.  It flows beautifully.  Remember that "really busy week" that I mentioned?  In spite of my many other commitments, once I started reading, I pretty much had to force myself to put it down long enough to show up at that other stuff.  Stephanie Perkins definitely retained her magic.

As in Anna, the setting itself heavily influences the story, almost becoming a character of its own.  While I've only been to San Francisco once, this book made me fall in love with it.

And as an added bonus, Anna and St. Clair are also in this book.  They're now both living in San Francisco, each attending a university.  Anna works at a movie theater with Lola, and St. Clair lives in the same Berkeley dorm as Cricket.  Anna and St. Clair have become precisely the couple that I hoped they would; they are just perfect together.

While Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door aren't exactly a series and can be read independently of each other, Stephanie Perkins calls them "companion novels," and they're definitely delightful together.  The third companion novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After, will be released sometime in 2013.  I highly recommend these books to any fan of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han, or to anyone who loves a good romance.

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