Monday, 12 December 2011

Lola And The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Released: September 29th, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 384
Buy The Book: Amazon

"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."

Having literally just finished Lola this very second, I realised it was definitely time to stop procrastinating and write an absolutely glowing review of this lovely book. I re-read Anna in around five hours flat to refresh my memory before I started Lola, and the first thing I'll say is that although the two are companion novels, they are very, very different books. The protagonists are two very different girls; I found Lola much more vulnerable than Anna, and her backstory interested me much more. Where Anna's backstory played a minor role in the book as she discovered a new life in Paris, Lola's past forms the very basis of her story. Maybe it was because we didn't see much of Anna's home life first hand, but Lola felt like a more complete character because you can see exactly where she's come from to become who she is.

But this isn't a comparison essay, it's a review, and even as a standalone, Lola is a completely lovely book. The characters are well-thought out and vibrant, and that's saying something when they're cast against the colourful backdrop of San Francisco. Stephanie Perkins has a remarkable way of making you want to immediately visit any city she describes. Cricket Bell is a truly lovely 'boy next door'; he is thoughtful and kind and intelligent, and I also loved the way that, towards the end, he said things intimating that he might not be such an innocent boy (a certain sentence about him pressing someone against the wall with his hips made me come over all flustered). Making him a twin was also an interesting insight into a sibling relationship that I found sweet, endearing and lifelike.

As in Anna, action and plotline generally play second fiddle to character development and interaction, but this is at no detriment to the book. Stephanie Perkins creates characters that you miss when they're not in scenes; whenever Cricket wasn't home for the weekend I felt impatient to read Lola's next interaction with him. The wonderful author is also a master of slow-burning romance. The last third of the book is sheer torture, in the best way.

I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a dose of realistic romance in their life.

(Also, Cricket you are adorable, but my heart still belongs to Etienne St. Clair and the amount of Etienne-loving in this book, though unexpected, makes me very happy indeed.)

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