“It’s easy to talk about things we hate, but sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly why we like something.”
Dolores “Lola” Nolan loves to dress up. She loves fashion, her dads, and her punk rocker boyfriend, Max. But behind all that she loves, Lola is hiding a bitter past: her birth parents are wrecks and her neighbours, the Bell twins, used to be her friends until jealousy and circumstance tore them apart.
Except for the fact that the Bell family has moved back. Bringing budding inventor Cricket Bell back into her life.
But she doesn’t want him back into her life…right?
Ughh…there is a huge problem with Lola and the Boy Next Door—Perkins is simply rewriting Anna and the French Kiss. And rather poorly at that.
All the elements are there: pining young (Anna/Cricket) moves and is hopelessly in love with the obviously gorgeous (St. Clair/Lola), who has a difficult family life (Dad/Mom) but (s)he is dating an obvious douche (Ellie/Max), while their close ones (Josh, Rashmi, Mer/Andy, Nathan, Lindsey) point out how the relationship isn’t healthy.
The major difference between the two books is that there’s a specific shift away from the romance to the familial problems that Lola has to deal with. Lola doesn’t want to admit it, but she’s ashamed of her origins, and so she costumes herself up to “reinvent” herself each day. I like this angle, and the transfer of her costuming from hiding to expression is rather good.
However, the romance is weak. Unlike Anna, where the characters are learning how love works, how to watch and pay attention to what someone really needs, Lola’s story just happens. What Lola and Cricket’s relationship is based on them being each other’s fangirl. They admire each other, their talents and abilities. There’s no point at which they like each other outside of appearances. There’s no reason for Lola and Cricket to like each other…especially in the case of the latter. And this completely makes the story unbelievable.
I do not like the protagonists.
Lola is annoying. She is completely oblivious to how many people she hurts with her lies and deception. She hates her mother for her irresponsibility, but all Lola does is irresponsible. Happily, she grows over the course of story–though it is rather rapid near the end. For most of the story her personality is costuming, lying, and obsessing over Max/Cricket. That’s it.
Which is why Cricket is also annoying. Cricket is built to be this perfect, nerdy, well-dressed guy. His only flaw? His life is controlled entirely by women. I don’t understand why he loves Lola so much because she doesn’t have a personality beyond lying and guilt. And he doesn’t have a personality beyond (sort of) engineering, dressing well, and being obsessed with Lola. The guy deserves some time just to focus on himself.
I actually liked Max until the plot required he become a douche. Do I like that he was with Lola? No. Their relationship was so physical, it didn’t seem sincere to me. Do I like that he was sort of a wake up slap in the face for Lola? Yes. He doesn’t know who she is, and while that reveals his perversion, it also reveals how fake Lola is. Did he need to turn into an ass at the end? No.
I do like Andy and Nathan and Norah. They were great characters, which is rare since adult characters get shafted in YA. And I’d probably like Lindsey if I knew more about her.
And while I love the cameo of Anna and St. Clair, I feel like they are progressing rather quickly. It was cute, seeing them dating and all (so rare for any sort of rom com). But they spent a whole year skirting around each other in the last book, and they’re already planning their futures together? It’s a little too fast and a little too perfect, but maybe that’s just skewed by Lola’s point of view.
Perkins’ writing style is the same as the last book. But instead of WRITING IN ALL CAPS, when her protag panics, allthewordsarepushedtogether.
But, Perkins is testing my suspension of disbelief with this outlandish set up. I’d rather have the cliches from Anna than the crazy set up in Lola. Even Anna and St. Clair are outlandish to me, and that’s rather sad.
I know that Lola grows throughout the story. I like the idea that we should use art to express ourselves, not hide ourselves. I like the idea that we shouldn’t let our histories define us.
But the focus on appearances (mainly Cricket’s) and the sudden attraction between the protags gives an odd message about love. I especially dislike how physical everything is. It makes sense for Lola and Max’s relationship to be flawed this way, but Lola’s reactions to Cricket are also physical too.
I also hate how Lola manipulates everyone’s trust. And how she’s shocked when she loses the trust of everyone around her.
I’m also getting this overwhelming feeling that Perkins does not like rockers for whatever reason.
I stuck through this book because I was hoping the plot would take a good turn like it did in Anna. Instead it just stayed rather flat for most of the story. Lola and the Boy Next Door deserves a few good, major rewrites. I just feel like it’s an earlier draft of Anna in a different setting.
Recommendation: Don’t Bother. Lola’s story is a rehash of Anna’s, with a quirky twist that makes the entire story unbelievable. So far I’d stick with just Anna and the French Kiss.