Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 


Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
September 29, 2011; Dutton


Summary

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. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Stephanie Perkins has created a formula for the perfect romance novel. Part of me wonders if she actually has a physical formula written down. Why? Because Lola and the Boy Next Door has so many of the same elements that made Anna and the French Kiss wonderful. The comparisons between Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door aren't obvious. You have to carefully break each book down into elements: setting, very well developed secondary characters, flawed but lovable main characters, conflict, squeal-inducing romance. On the surface, the two books are very different, but if you read carefully, you'll notice a lot of things in common. Part of me is disappointed by the formulaic feel. But another part is really impressed. Stephanie figured out just what makes a romance novel work and how to take significantly different plots and characters and fit both into the formula.

Elements:

Main Characters:

Lola makes and breaks this book for me. I love Lola's vivacity. I love how she is an accomplished seamstress and is obsessed with costumes. Her costumes make her personality shine while also masking a deep-seeded insecurity. She is also stubborn, self-righteous, and quick to jump to conclusions. A fairly normal teen. Overall, she is a more engaging character than Anna. I'll address my problems with her in the conflict section.

Cricket. I can't say his name without a little squeal. What a fabulous guy! He's as nice as can be. Awkward and nerdy. A little insecure. Very patient. I love that, despite being a freshman in college, he's more "boyish" than many of the typical YA "men."

Conflict: Three's a crowd. In Anna, Etienne's girlfriend was the conflict. In Lola, it's Lola's boyfriend. Lola is dating Max, a hip, indie rockstar in his early 20s. This is the main problem I had with Lola. Not that her relationship wasn't written well. Rather, I spent a good portion of the book wanting to use said book to slap Lola upside the head. Lola and Max exemplify why teenage girls should not date older guys. Lola loses herself around Max. She hero-worships him. If Max told her that she doesn't look good in pink, she'd throw away every pink outfit she had, even if it was her favorite color. I see why she likes him - he's sexy, charming, and talented. But Max is a jerk - controlling, self-righteous, arrogant. The type of guy who thinks it's cool to mold a young girl into what he wants her to be. Lola isn't old enough or self-confident enough to recognize that for a long time. I thought Lola's relationship with her boyfriend was very realistic, but it was hard to read.

Well Developed Secondary Characters: Anna focused on friends, as one expects in a boarding school setting. The strongest characters in Lola are her parents: her dads Nathan and Andy and her mom Norah. This is the first book I've read where a character's parents were gay. I loved how their "differentness" wasn't a plot point in Lola. They were fabulous parents who happened to be gay. Nathan and Andy are attentive dads, funny, caring, thoughtful, and have raised Lola to shine. I loved how close Lola was to her parents. Lola's ne'er-do-well biological mother easily could have been a flat, loser character, but we see that she is neither good nor bad. There are also good friend characters. Lola's best friend Lindsay was fabulous. Funny, loyal, and quirky yet she avoided the crazy best friend stereotype. I also found Calliope, Cricket's twin sister, to be a layered, if not likable character.

Romance: Just as sweet as in Anna! The perfect mixture of friendship and passion. We get to know each character before anything happens. Unlike most YA novels, we witness the build-up. No insta-love. Technically, Lola and Cricket have had a thing for each other their whole lives, but their relationship slowly changes from a stand-off, to friendship, to romance. It feels like something that could actually occur in real life. I like that the romance isn't entirely hot and heavy. It's sweet and touching more than anything else.

Companion: Stephanie Perkins understands the definition of a companion novel! Anna and Etienne are characters in Lola. But it's not a disguised sequel. They add another layer to the story. The book would function fine without them, but it's better because they're there. They never try to steal Lola and Cricket's thunder.

Setting: Love the San Francisco setting. It doesn't have the depth that Paris did in Anna, but Lola highlights some of the quirky sides of San Francisco that you don't normally see.

If I had to choose between Lola and the Boy Next Door and Anna and the French Kiss, I'd probably choose Anna. I like Lola better than Anna, but I like Etienne a little better than Cricket (is that blasphemy?). I love how Lola and Anna feel very similar yet entirely different. Lola and the Boy Next Door is a sweet story with fun characters, fabulous romance, and a great plot that will immediately hook you. Just like Lola the girl, Lola and the Boy Next Door is glowing neon and full of life.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

28 comments:

  1. The "Ellie conflict" in Anna annoyed me. Perhaps I will feel different about the "Max conflict" in Lola since we'll be seeing it directly. I am looking forward to reading this, though. Despite my issues with it, I did enjoy Anna and the French Kiss. Great review!

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  2. Great review, I read all your thoughts and they amplify my want to read it! Sigh, I love the cover too... I like how you broke it down in to elements. I happen to like sweet romance (heavy isn't too bad either) but that sounds like a book that would land on my shelf :) Thanks for the review!

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  3. Glad this was good as well. I loved Anna and am so excited to dig into this as well.

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  4. great review! I can't wait to read this book, but I've been resisting as I have purchased too many recently.

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I think I may one day, eventually, give city of bones another chance...but it will be a while.

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  5. Great review. I still love Anna more than Lola, but this was yet another great Perkins book and I'm looking forward to the third book in this series. :)

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  6. I really loved Anna and the French Kiss and I would like to try this one as well. Great review!

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  7. Haha yes! I believe she has perfected the formula too. Where can I get me a copy of that?

    I really love how you broke down all the elements, I definitely agree with much of what you said. And oh, Cricket Bell. CricketCricketCricket, how I adore that beautiful, nerdy boy! <3 And I love Lola's two dads aswell, they were awesome.

    Anna is still my favourite too, but I absolutely loved this and will instantly buy anything else Perkins writes. I cannot wait to see what she brings in Isla. Fantastic review!

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  8. I don't think I've ever anticipated a book as much as this one. Can't wait to read it! Great review, very thorough. :)

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  9. I want to read this just because of the nerdy hero! Cricket sounds adorable! Great review!

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  10. I agree 110% on the Conflict bit - But (and I mentioned this in my review) I think that it was vvery realistic of how teenage girls can be. (Or at least how I was... the Sun rose and set with what my boyfriend said. Do I look back with regret on that relationship? Yes... but it was very real - and it's part of what made Lola very real for me as well.

    And I could not agree more with you! I love Lola, but St Clair is the better boy (in my mind!)

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  11. Great review. I enjoyed Anna and will one day read Lola. I like how you point out how Lola gets 'lost' in Max and I hope that she finds herself with Cricket.

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  12. Great review! I like Anna a little better, too. But I loved Anna's character a little more than Lola, and Cricket a little more than St. Clair. I loved that they were in the book but didn't steal the show, either.

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  13. I wondered if someone would do a compare and contrast review of "Lola" and "Anna"! I wondered if there were many similarities with both books. Thanks for a detailed review. I have to wait to read "Lola" because it's a mile long waiting list and I have a large reading pile as is, but I''m glad you enjoyed it. I'm still can't get over the fact that the love interest's name is Cricket?!

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  14. EPPP! So excited for this book! I am even happier that it got a good rating! Thanks for the review!

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  15. I haven't read these books yet, and I think something about the formula set up is what has kept me from them.

    But I did meet Stephanie Perkins over the weekend and she is as sweet as can be. She believes HEAs are possible and told us that she chose SF as her setting because that is where her husband courted her. It was a lovely story, and made me excited to read the books.

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  16. Couldn't agree more with your conflict section Alison! I had the exact same reaction. We didn't really have to deal with Etienne's conflicted state of mind in ANNA so it was super easy to just get behind Anna and root for Etienne to come around, but with Lola we had to deal with her mixed feelings and that made things more difficult. I'd probably choose ANNA over this one as well, but I still absolutely adored the story:)

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  17. Totally loved Anna and the French Kiss so this is a definite 'to buy' title for me, but trying to wade through the pile of books I already have before I'm allowed to buy any more! (annoyingly my library doesn't stock as that's usually my sneaky loophole, borrowing is not the same as buying) ; )

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  18. I haven't read either books yet (although they are both on my TBR list). I find it a little odd that you found so many similarities between them, however like you said if she found the perfect formula for a romance... go with it! Give the readers what they want! I hope to check out both soon.

    Bonnie @ HandsAndHome

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  19. Cannot wait to read this! My copy is en route, and I'm really liking the sound of the romance in this one. I will miss the Parisian setting, but I hope to love the book as much as I loved ANNA.

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  20. I can't wait to dive into this book when I finish a few others. I'm chomping at the bit to read it.

    I didn't read the full review yet because I don't want any spoilers. But, I did read what you said about Lola, Cricket, and the setting (other than in the conflict section). I'm excited that Lola is so compelling as a character. And, I'm excited to meet Cricket. However, I don't think anyone can touch Etienne. And, I'm so excited it's in San Fran. San Fran is my favorite city in the world! I can't wait to walk down its streets and see the residential side rather than the touristy side of things.

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  21. Don't kill me, but I've yet to read Anna! I need to read that before I read Lola, I think. Fab review :)

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  22. Alison, I just have to say two things--(1) your blog is simply beautiful! (2) You have a Pound Puppy on your About Me page, and that is so awesome! Do you know, I'd forgotten all about the Pound Puppies and how much I used to love them until I saw that picture. You made my day!
    Jennifer
    The Beauty of Eclecticism

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  23. I want to read this book so bad it hurts! Freaking awesome review. Maybe I'll get to read it soon? Hopefully. I'm about to wish on a star here! LOL

    ♥ Trish
    Just a YA Girl

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  24. Romance isn't my cup of tea, but it's nice to know that something in that genre actually offers a nice, nerdy, boyish love interest.

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  25. I am SO debating reading this book because I was one of the few (the only?) people that didn't care for A&TFK! :/ what to do, what to do... :::sigh::: however, I am glad that you enjoyed it!

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  26. I guess if it's not broke, don't fix it? Because Anna was fantastic so I don't think I would want Stephanie to play for the formula too much. At least the stories and characters seem different enough that it's not exactly the same. I just know I'm going to love Lola and Cricket.

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  27. Great review! I love the way you broke everything down so perfectly. Although...Etienne over Cricket? Shame, shame...I am just so in love with Cricket. This book seriously captured me and I can't wait to read it again!

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  28. I recently read Anna and the French Kiss and adored it. I like the way you broke down your review. It makes me want to read this book even more than I did when I finished Anna.

    -jehara

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