Read this one on the beach. FANTASTIC book! Full review coming soon.
In April, I went to Florida with a group of friends, and saw the ocean for the first time. It was an amazing trip, and when we all decided to spend one day just laying around on the beach (which was fantastic, and I miss it!) I brought one book with me: Lola and the Boy Next Door. It only took one reading of Stephanie Perkin's break-out debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss for me to fall in love with Perkin's writing, as so many others before me had. Within a few pages of Lola, with the sun overhead and the waves crashing nearby, I sunk happily into Lola Nolan's story, and experienced all over again the rush of reading a truly amazing book, which has that inherent, mysterious power to wake me up and make me FEEL. By the end of Lola, I'd laughed, cried, seethed, clapped, and generally ran the gamut of emotions.
Only Stephanie Perkins can create these amazingly identifiable characters, the kind of girl that, right away, you want to know and befriend. You want to give her advice, you want to go shopping with her, in Lola's case, and you just want to know her and go on her journey with her. Lola is an incredibly vivacious character, who reminded me of myself at times. I dress conservatively at work because I have to, but there's definitely a part of me that, like Lola, loves to dress up it outlandish costumes and jewelry, accessories, and such. And the best part about Lola and the Boy Next Door is that there are so many fascinating characters - from Lola's two days (each of which I adored in different ways), her absentee birth mother, her rocker boyfriend, and of course the infamous Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket. Each character reads as if Perkins paused in their creation and really gave them time and attention, crafting not just one or two stand-out characters, but many.
For Lola, who has spent a great deal of her life trying to understand the Bell twins, their arrival back in her life throws her into a serious turmoil. Suddenly she has to figure out where she stands with both of them, and she ventures down an inspiring course of self-discovery in the process. Along the way, Lola's relationships with almost everyone around her change, alter, and bend to give way to the biggest question of all: out of every costume and persona she's worn, which one is the real Lola? Stephanie Perkins wrote Lola's journey in such a heart-achingly real way that it reminded me of my own younger years, when I first stretched my proverbial wings and started questioning my beliefs and actions and really trying to get to know myself, even if that meant it was scary and brave sometimes.
And of course, I can't review a Perkins book without mentioning The Boy. I swear, she writes these perfectly flawed boys, who tug at my heart, break it, and then put it back together. First Etienne, now Cricket. Cricket Bell, who's always stood in his twin's shadow, Cricket, who gives so much to others and asks for so little in return. Cricket, who gets Lola like no one else does. My heart just swelled to the brim with love for him and for the relationship and bond that he and Lola shared, and begin to develop again over the course of Lola and the Boy Next Door. And I also have to say, it was a GREAT treat to see Anna and St Clair again! I loved their parts in Lola!
Watching Cricket and Lola become tentative friends again, and then getting to see their link deepen was beautiful and so special. For every time I wanted to hug both of them, I also wanted to cry or shake them, but of course, I also had to trust Stephanie Perkins to take the story in the direction she saw fit. But with characters like Max around (Lola's boyfriend) it was really tough not to read ahead and try to figure out what happened! Max is that awful character - the guy every girl meets and thanks she can change - but even he served a purpose, as did Lola's birth mother, Nora. Stephanie Perkins absolutely knows what she's doing with placing characters in her books to teach the main character about themselves.
I wouldn't ever hesitate to suggest Lola and the Boy Next Door. It's a fabulous contemporary read that will shut out reality while you read it. I read it in a few hours, and I already wish I had the time to re-read it to help with the wait for Isla and the Happily Ever After! Lola's story will touch your heart, and leave you smiling in the end, and it just make might you a believer in a certain kind of magic...the magic of hope and a second chance with the one that got away.