Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. Grades 8+ Dutton, September 2011. 338 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA.

Things are going pretty well for Lola Nolan. She's got a loving family, good friends, a hot, rocker boyfriend, and big plans to create a splash at the winter formal with a Marie Antoinette-inspired gown she's making herself. And then her next-door neighbors the Bells move back in. Lola kinda had a thing for Cricket Bell, but it all blew up and then he moved away. But now that Lola's actually happy with her life, Cricket's back and suddenly everything is very complicated indeed. Lola thought she had moved on, but has she really?

I enjoyed Stephanie Perkins's debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss, and my expectations were high for this companion novel. I liked Lola and the Boy Next Door. I liked it, but I didn't love it... The love triangle romantic tension* was not entirely successful and I spent a lot of the book being frustrated by Lola. That's about as much as I can say without spoilers, I think.

HOWEVER. (And this is a huge however.) The last quarter of the book made up for almost every frustration I had with the first bit. And there was a lot that I loved about this book. Stephanie Perkins creates swoon-worthy characters and sensual scenes that aren't sexually explicit. She perfectly captures how the touch of a finger on a wrist can be so electrifying.

I also loved the details about the characters that brought them to life and made them into real people. I love Lola's costume stuff, I love that Cricket is into science, I love that Andy bakes pies. I also loved the glimpses of San Francisco and Berkeley that Ms. Perkins weaves into the story. And she gets definite bonus points for giving Lola gay parents.

Of course, fans of Anna and the French Kiss are going to be rabid for this one, so make sure it's on your radar. Anna and Etienne have a small part in this book! And I will definitely be following Stephanie Perkins and picking up whatever she writes (a third companion book, Isla and the Happily Ever After, is slated for Fall 2012 release).

Lola and the Boy Next Door will be on shelves September 29!

* Awkward, awkward phrasing, but Stephanie Perkins is pretty adamant that her book's not about a love triangle. I guess I don't know what else to call it, though.