Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

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Lola and the Boy Next Door is the sequel to Anna and the French Kiss, although not in the conventional sense of the word ‘sequel’. It’s not from Anna’s perspective anymore, but you get a glimpse of her story continuing through the eyes of a new narrator: Lola.

Lola is a really interesting main character. She’s a bit off beat and has an obsession with costume and clothes. She sews and is really talented at it which I liked, but at the same time I felt like she was too extreme to really relate to. Like, wearing wigs on a regular basis!

I read this as an audiobook which I borrowed from my local library, and absolutely loved listening it in my car on the way to and from work (or anywhere else I was going!). I actually got so into it that I kept sitting in my car for ages when I’d arrive just listening for a tiny bit longer, just to the end of this chapter… and then maybe just a little bit more. It’s the first time I’ve listened to one on CDs rather than just using audible on my phone.

Somewhat befitting of her unusual style of dress, Lola comes from a slightly unusual family. She has two dads, one of whom is technically her uncle, but to her they are both her parents. Lola’s mother is around, but not someone Lola respects. This is quite an interesting part of the storyline. It’s quite funny that with two very normal gay parents that Lola’s style of dress is so flamboyant, but I feel like Perkins makes an effort not to credit this to her parenting, but to her personality. The only tiny shred of influence might be Andy’s love for figure skating and the associated costuming.

She has an older boyfriend which I thought was an interesting topic. I must be getting old because I instantly disliked him even though he actually seemed like quite a nice character. Maybe it had something to do with the title being quite leading. I mean, he’s not her next door neighbour so what’s he doing in this story? I felt like I assumed the boy next door was a better option even before I met him. Max is mature and in a band and very cool. To Lola, he’s perfect. To her parents? Not so much. It’s funny because Lola is all upset about her overly-concerned parents and how unfair they are trying to keep tabs on her and Max, and meanwhile she’s having underage sex with said boyfriend in the back of his band’s van (sorry, spoiler alert!).

Perkins builds suspense and interest around the next door neighbours, Calliepe and Cricket, and what happened between them. There’s a lot of details left out and hints that keep you guessing. Why is Lola so traumatised by the reappearance of her neighbours? Why is it left so unclear for so long? What happened between her and Cricket? To be honest, it’s not that hard to guess but you are given a lot of space to think about it which helps with the dramatic tension surrounding all of their interactions.

It’s a really cute story, and while I found the characters a bit frustrating at times I also admired them. And let’s face it, people in real life can be just as frustrating. I love Cricket, he’s super sweet, and it’s so fun to see their relationship unfold. I also love the scene where her glasses break and she’s super blind because I totally can relate to how awful it is when that happens! Of course a huge highlight again is Anna and Étienne’s cameo appearances. I love them so much!

I don’t know if I’m being too harsh, but I gave this 2/5 stars. I had a lot of issues with the characters and I didn’t love it nearly as much as Anna and the French Kiss. I did however, sit and listen to it for long periods of time in my car!

Sidenote: Obviously the picture I’ve used isn’t an audiobook. I got Lola out from the library and somehow forgot to photograph it before I returned it! I went into a few bookstores in Melbourne to find a copy for a pretty photo and was lucky to find all three in stock! They are so lovely! I might buy them all one day…

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