25 March 2013

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Stephanie Perkins)

Do I even have to tell you how much I loved Stephanie Perkins's Lola and the Boy Next Door? After gushing about her first novel, Anna and the French Kiss, for 700 words? (And for many more to pretty much anyone who'll listen.) Ain't no sophomore slump here, let me assure you.

Lola (for Dolores) Nolan has just turned 17 and is pretty happy with her life: she lives in a gingerbread Victorian in San Francisco with her dads; she's got a hawt, 22-year-old rock star boyfriend, Max; and she's got big plans to go to her school's winter formal dressed as Marie Antoinette. Fashion plate's an understatement to describe Lola--she's a whole fashion tea service, part Claudia Kishi, part Weetzie Bat, wearer of wigs and vintage weirdness and seamstress extraordinaire. She is so cool, you guys. I wish I had been friends with her in high school, but I think I would've been too shy. Maybe I'd just have blurted "I LIKE YOUR SHOES" in the hall one day and run away?

But conflict arrives, as arrive it must in traditional narrative structure. While Lola's still dealing with her dads' disapproval of Max (being an adult myself, of course, I am squarely in their corner. He is Too Old For You, Young Lady), and the reappearance of her estranged biological mother, the Bell family moves back next door, having spent the past two years traveling for daughter Calliope's figure skating career. Lola's been dreading this day since they left, knowing it will bring Calliope's twin brother, Cricket, back into her life. (Oh, Cricket, tall, lanky, well-dressed, whip-smart, clockwork-thingummy-inventing Cricket. How do you manage to be hotter than √Čtienne St. Clair, hero of Anna, when I had previously believed such a thing impossible?) And she doesn't know what to do about Cricket. She's known him her whole life, and been half in love with him for most of it. And even though she tells herself she's happy with Max, she's spending more and more time chatting with Cricket through their bedroom windows . . .

I liked pretty much ALL THE THINGS in this book (Oh, Anna and √Čtienne are in this one too!!! Hip hip!!!!), but one favorite aspect that bears mentioning: I love that Lola makes bad decisions, and that there are consequences, and that she has to take steps to fix things--with her parents, with Cricket, with Max, with her best friend, with herself. It's so honest, and important, and not didactic at all, and I'm just in awe at Perkins's skill with emotional characterization. Cannot wait for her third novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After, publishing in September--I could get an ARC before then, most likely, but this is a lady who deserves my hard-earned ducats for sure. And yours.

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