Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (NY: Dutton, 2011).

Lola's life is great--super parents, a best friend who gets her, an older, rock-and-roll boyfriend, perfect fashion sense, and a fabulous design idea for her winter formal dress.  But then Cricket and his famous figure skating twin sister Calliope move back into the neighborhood, and all of the feelings Lola had thought were gone come flooding back to confuse her.  Lola and Cricket had been the best of friends while growing up and had shared a first kiss when she was five and he was six. She thought there had been more before he moved again two years ago,  but then he left without saying a word.  Now he's back, looming large, and Lola starts watching his bedroom window--which is right across from hers in their adjacent San Francisco Victorian homes.

Lots of romance conventions make this novel somewhat predictable, but Lola is a feisty and interesting enough character to overcome most of that monotony.  On the other hand, her relationship with her twenty-two-year-old boyfriend (she's just turned sixteen!) seems somewhat creepy.  Her parents (a gay couple who have adopted Lola, the daughter of one's sister) allow the relationship to avoid having it take on a forbidden quality, but it seems like a questionable move on their part, as they must know that Lola's having sex with the guy.  This makes it even more remarkable when they completely overreact to catching Cricket in Lola's room, especially given that they've been actively sabotaging the older boyfriend while encouraging Cricket.  Lola's conflicted feelings get a little repetitive, but Cricket is an equally interesting character and their relationship evolves in a romantically realistic way with lots of teen angst and misunderstandings. Fans of Perkins's Anna and the French Kiss will enjoy revisiting Anna and Etienne St. Claire as an established couple in a new locale. Recommended for ages 13 & up.  Sexual situations, alcohol, drugs (marijuana).

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