Review Blog

Oct 19 2011

Lola and the boy next door by Stephanie Perkins

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Penguin, 2011. 338p. ISBN 978-0-14-356626-7.
(Age 14+)Recommended. Romance. More than two years ago, Lola, an aspiring costume designer, had a huge crush on Cricket Bell, the boy next door. She was certain that it was love. However Cricket hurt her badly and she believes that she is finally over her first love, especially as the Bells had moved away and she no longer has constant memories of how well they seemed to fit together. She now has a boyfriend, Max, an older man who plays in a band. But does he see the real Lola underneath the sparkle and costumes? Everything seems perfect until Cricket and his twin sister Calliope return home next door and Lola is faced with her feelings. She discovers that true love doesn't come easily as she navigates her way through parental disapproval, shyness, fear of hurting friends' feelings and indecision about who is right for her.
Perkins has written a vivid, enthralling romance with characters that feel really authentic. Lola wants to be a designer and she loves to wear outrageous clothes and lots of sparkles. But under Lola's costumes is a girl who loves her gay parents, wants to do the right thing for them and is a devoted friend. Cricket seems almost too good to be true. He seems to be the ideal boyfriend material, understanding, helpful, normal and liked by Lola's parents. He is a clever inventor and is just beginning to emerge from being in the shadow of his often manipulative, talented twin sister, who is aiming to skate at the Olympics. Readers, who loved Perkin's previous novel, Anna and the French kiss, as I did, will be happy to find that Etienne and Anna have minor roles. The portrayal of the caring parenting that two gay men, Nathan, Lola's real uncle and his partner Andy, give Lola is heart warming.
The story has such a genuine feel to it. How many girls have had a crush on the boy next door and manage situations when they 'accidentally' stumble into them as they leave their home, spy on them and daydream about them. They will have no problem identifying with Lola as she struggles to come to terms with her feelings for Cricket and for rocker Max. It is obvious, even without reading the comments in the acknowledgments, that Perkins believes in true love and soul mates and this rings true throughout the story.
This book is a keeper for me. I love romances and this is such a tender portrayal of first love and all its heartbreak, angst and deep feelings that it is one I will revisit and one that girls are sure to enjoy.
Pat Pledger

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