Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola is a fashion designer of costumes.  She could care less about designer clothes and handbags. The more sparkly, expressive, and bold a costume is-the better.

Life in Lola Nolan's world seems perfect. She has two loving parents, her best friend Lindsey, and her rock star boyfriend Max.  When the Bell twins Cricket and Calliope move back into the neighborhood, Lola's world is turned upside down.  Years of hurt and anguish resurface, and now she must reconcile her feelings.

After reading Anna and the French Kiss, I was eager to read Lola and the Boy Next Door.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the story felt flat throughout most of the novel.  I knew that Anna and St. Clair were moving to the San Francisco area after graduation for college. I wasn't sure how they would play a role in Lola's story.  I thought maybe Lola was an unknown character from SOAP in Paris, but this is definitely not the case.

When the story first opens, we meet Lola's parents-her dads.  This is the first novel I've read where the protagonist's parents are in a same gender relationship.  When I read Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altabrandoreaders found out that EB's parents are divorced and her dad is gay.  However, that's all we know about him and readers don't get a look into his life.  Usually in young adult fiction, parents are background characters and have a limited storyline.  I personally think that parents in Sarah Dessen novels have more of a storyline than other parents in other books.

I wondered if Lola's parents were divorced or if she was adopted.  Readers learn the answers to these questions very quickly.  She even tells someone in the novel (sadly, I don't remember who) that she doesn't really have a mother.

I am use to reading novels where the protagonist has a traditional family-two parents, siblings, and pets. In some books, the main character may have divorced parents and are raised by a single parent or relative. Before anyone goes crazy on me, I know that times have changed. I haven't been under a rock and I am not clueless to the fact that family structures have changed over the years.

In Lola's case, Nathan is actually her biological uncle who adopted her when her biological mother Norah was not in the position to take care of her.  Nathan raised Lola with his partner Andy.  Norah has been in out of Lola's life.  As far as her birth father is concerned, I'm not sure where he is.  I imagine that all of this had to be difficult for Lola to adjust to.  The biggest challenge she faces is that Norah shows up on their doorstep again and moves in for some time.  Likely, there are many teens out there that can relate to Lola in some shape or form.

Another factor that we learn about Lola's life is that her boyfriend Max is 22 and she is 17 years old.

What? As an older reader, I don't agree with this at all.  What does a 22 year old grown man want with a 17 year old high school girl?  What could they possibly have in common?  I remember when I was in high school, I thought that the boys in my school were immature. Older guys seemed more desirable.  However I learned years later that older does not always equal mature.  Back in the day, Aaliyah had a song called "Age Aint Nothing But A Number."  Well, age and maturity levels do matter.

I couldn't believe that Nathan and Andy were okay with Lola dating Max. As the story progresses, we learn that they are not 100% okay with Lola dating Max.

Max is required to attend Sunday brunch, and Lola must check in with her parents whenever she is with Max.  I guess that they figured that they might as well let her date Max because if they say no, she would rebel.

Anna and St. Clair appear quite a bit in the novel.  They actually work at the same movie theater where Lola works.  Yes, St. Clair works.  He was hanging out there so much, he might as well get a job.

I'm not sure why Lola and the Boy Next Door is a companion novel for Anna and the French Kiss other than Anna and St. Clair's cameo appearance.  There are two things that both novels have in common.

  1. Both main characters (narrators) work in a movie theater.
  2. Both narrators love interests (crush/boyfriend) is in a band.
I can't see what makes Max so appealing.  He is disrespectful, he is jealous of Cricket, and has other undesirable traits.  He thinks that Lola's best friend Lindsey is immature. Well, Max, how about finding someone your own age on your level. Thank you very much.  

What frustrated me about Lola is the fact that she leads Max and Cricket on.  She lies to Max and acts like she does not have feelings for Cricket.  Yeah, I know that Max deserves a place in the Jerk Hall of Fame, but that is no excuse to lie. I feel that this relationship was destined for doom in the beginning.  

Throughout the novel, Lola has been working on the Marie Antoinette dress. I must say that it was quite a project.  She thinks that she is going to the winter formal with Max. Does she really believe that he is going to be seen a high school dance? I don't think so. In the end, she does go to the winter formal, but with whom?

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