Series: Anna and the French Kiss #2
Published by Dutton Children's Books on September 29th 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.
Reading a Stephanie Perkins book is like eating your favourite chocolate bar. You slowly peel the wrapper off, careful not to mess it up. You promise you’re going to savor it, but with one smell of the chocolate-y deliciousness that awaits you, you’re stuffing your face. Seconds later the chocolate is gone, and you’re just kind of stunned at how quickly it ended.
No, sorry, reading a Stephanie Perkins book is like not eating your favourite chocolate, and instead giving it to her. She dangles the chocolate in your face, and every time you reach for it, she pulls it away, because Stephanie Perkins is the FREAKING MASTER of writing about two people who are perfect for each other, and then placing them in a situation where they absolutely can’t get together, over and over again.
You think they’re close to kissing, but they don’t. So they pine and then something changes and all is well, just in time for something else to stand in their way again. And again. And you think they can be together now but they aren’t. Or they were for the moment and five seconds later nothing has changed.
To enjoy a Stephanie Perkins book, you have to be into reading scenarios like this. You have to realize what you’re getting in to before you start. It’s going to be gushy and romantic, and there are going to be a lot of scenes where you roll your eyes at the improbability of the circumstances. The unlikely will happen often, and you’ll either find this charming, or frustratingly unrealistic.
I found it charming.
I was curious to start this book. I wondered whether Perkins could pull off a similar plot structure to Anna and the French Kiss (they like each other, they can’t get together), without falling into the trap of writing the same story. To my immense delight, Lola and the Boy Next Door holds a magic all of its own.
Perkins succeeds in writing witty and natural dialogue, and Lola’s inner ALL CAPS EXPRESSIONS when she was panicked were laugh out loud hilarious. Lola was a bit irrational, but her impulsive decision making was never taken to a point where I was annoyed with her. I loved the way her interest in fashion was not only her creative outlet, but also changed the way in which she saw the world, adding a unique layer to each character that’s described through her eyes.
Another thing I wasn’t so sure about before reading this book were the supposed reappearances of Anna and Etienne. In my head I’d envisioned a forced cameo, but they actually became close friends with Lola, adding an entirely different dimension to the story. I didn’t realize how much I missed their characters until I was reading them again. It made me want to reread A&TFK actually, because I missed the Paris setting and well, mostly I missed the romance with Etienne St. Clair.
Part of the reason Perkins’s two books succeed in being so different is the contrast between the main love interests, Cricket Bell, and Etienne. While Etienne was cocky and charming, Cricket is quiet and awkward and manic.
These qualities don’t sound exactly enticing, but Perkins makes it work. Cricket Bell was adorable, and I loved how well he and Lola compliment each other. While A&TFK is about a girl meeting a boy for the first time and their relationship from that point on, Cricket and Lola had a shared past that was at first, a bit difficult to understand, but in the end only made their relationship more fun to read.
I find it really difficult to criticize a book like this, because it’s exactly what I expected it to be. Adorable, fun and fast-paced. It was predictable, but I’ll be honest, if it had ended in a way I hadn’t been expecting when I was two thirds in, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have been a happy camper.
So bottom line, this book is either for you or it’s not, depending on what you’re looking for. If it’s not your kind of thing, then skip it, but if it is, you’ll be instantly enthralled in Lola’s pie baking, glasses breaking, Marie Antoinette gown crafting, moon chatting and tea reading adventures. I know I was.