Seventeen-year-old Lola is unique. Each day, she presents a different version of herself to the world--dressed as a strawberry, a space cowgirl, the embodiment of fire-- because she "doesn't believe in fashion. [She] believes in costume." Lola lives in San Francisco in one of those pastel cookie-cutter Victorian homes (that we of the 90s will always associate with Full House). And in the lavender Victorian next door, a boy with the unlikely--yet adorable--name of Cricket Bell moves in. Or rather, moves back in. Two years ago Lola was in love with Cricket. But he broke her heart and moved away. Now our be-wigged heroine must determine whether she will pursue a romance with Cricket or continue in her illegal relationship with Max, a 22-year-old bad influence. Even more than finding love, Lola realizes she must find herself. Does she wear costumes because she doesn't know who she is? Or is costume a true expression of herself?
The Boy Next Door of the title, Cricket is a 6'4" science whiz who also has a quirky sense of style. His pants are always too short for his lanky frame and he always has on colorful or patterned socks. Surprisingly, I find Cricket's style to be adorable. (This is unexpected because I normally prefer guys in flannel and camouflage.) Ah, Cricket. He swept me off of my feet the first time that Lola looks out her bedroom window to see him sitting in his own bedroom window, waiting to talk to her, just like the old days. Only feet away, long legs dangling with rubber-banded wrists on the sill. As in Anna and the French Kiss, Perkins again manifests one of my teenage fantasies in novel form. Did anyone else dream about finding love with the boy whose window looks into yours from the house next door? (In my case, this was a fictional boy, in a fictional window, in a fictional house. I didn't have much to go on.)
Lola and the Boy Next Door is the first companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss. Similar themes are presented in Lola that were also explored in Anna. Aside from the set-up of a love triangle, Lola, too, must learn to take risks and make the right decisions, all while undergoing the normal growing pains of teenagedom. Perkins writes a long road to happiness. Lola must become the best version of Lola she can be before she can begin a relationship with the boy she has loved since she was five. Anna and St. Clair pop up occasionally from Anna and the French Kiss to show how adorable they are and to provide a foil to Lola and Max's dysfunctional relationship. I didn't identify with Lola as much as I did with Anna. Anna was more relatable to me, whereas Lola was flamboyant and mercurial. But I loved the character development, the very realistic dialogue, and Cricket's heart-melting earnestness.
There's something about blue eyes. The kind of blue that startles you every time they're lifted in your direction. The kind of blue that makes you ache for them to look at you again. Not the blue-green or blue-grey, the blue that's just blue. Cricket has those eyes.
Grade: 3.5/5 stars. Great writing. The characters and dialogue feel so real.
Looking forward to the third companion novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After.