Three Things I Liked About Lola and the Boy Next Door:
1. Setting – San Francisco!
3. Friends first
Ugh, again with the ugly cover and the cheesy title. Remember Anna and the French Kiss? Same author. Same packaging problem. If you ask me, Stephanie ought to look into hiring a new designer. (I say this as if the cover is at all within the author’s power, when I’m pretty sure it’s not.) But because I knew what delectable goodness lay within the unappealing exterior of Anna and the French Kiss, I was more than willing to look past the equally off-putting cover of Lola and the Boy Next Door. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Any kindergartener can tell you that.
Seventeen-year-old Lola lives with her two dads in a lovely old Victorian house in the Castro district of San Francisco. She dresses up head (wigs) to toe in a different costume every day in lieu of “normal” clothes, works in a movie theater, and is pretty sure she’s found The One: a 22-year-old tattooed musician named Max. Her parents disagree. (And who can blame them? Age aside, one mention of Max’s spider web tattoos was enough to make me gag and start the countdown to the inevitable breakup.) Luckily, there wouldn’t be much plot if she were right. Cue Cricket Bell: adorable next door neighbor, childhood best friend, and almost boyfriend until he inexplicably crushed Lola’s feelings and moved away in one fell swoop. Not that she’s harboring a grudge or anything. But two years later when Cricket moves back into the house next door as suddenly as he departed, Lola decides a grudge would be a whole lot easier to handle than the complex poignancy of the rekindled history between them.
Not gonna lie, Lola and the Boy Next Door is exactly what you expect it to be. There are few, if any, surprises. But it is done with more personality and sincerity than many other books of its ilk. It was adorable and satisfying in all the right ways, without losing its dignity or sacrificing depth. Plus it was delightful to see Anna and Etienne again in a new context, and San Francisco was a very fun setting to read about, with the result being that I now really want to go on a trip there. Why aren’t more books set in San Fran?
My qualm: The characters were all more like caricatures than real people. Lola’s costumes, Cricket’s penchant for invention – not to mention being a descendent of Alexander Graham Bell – and his twin sister’s Olympic talent for figure skating, and Max’s semi-successful rock band (of course) all lent a cartoonish air to the story. You would never find all these people together in real life. I think this is the main reason why I wasn't as blown away by Lola and the Boy Next Door as I was by Anna and the French Kiss, though I can't quite put my finger on it. Now that I think about it, though, I guess Anna's characters were somewhat larger-than-life too, but somehow they managed to be so while keeping their authenticity intact; they seemed like real people whereas Lola's characters feel like just that - characters. Nonetheless, the Cricket/Lola development was believable and swoon-worthy, if a tad idyllic. As always, I love how Stephanie’s couples are always first and foremost friends. It’s refreshing. And it makes the eventual relationship ten times more romantic.
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Books Read This Year: 73
Top 100 Progress: 46/100