A Brief Synopsis
Once upon a time Lola was in love with the boy next door. A boy who liked solving equations and making contraptions and building automatons. A boy who burned her just before he moved away. Which sucked. And now that Lola’s over him (and dating a sexy, older, musician) the boy next door moves back.
And suddenly Lola's not sure that she was ever over him to begin with.
“It’s easy to talk about things we hate, but sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly why we like something.”
Oh, how true this is. I find it so much easier to review a book that I absolutely loathed, but talking about one I loved? I often resort to things like, “ZOMG. It’s amazing! You have to read it!” Which is not exactly helpful.
So, here I am, telling you that I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. And here is my attempt to explain why:
First of all: family dynamics. Lola has two dads (trust me, you will fall in love with them), and her aunt is her birth mother - a woman who often makes unwise or unhealthy decisions, then needs bailing out. Lola struggles with her origins, often trying to hide or deny her birth mother’s lifestyle, and wants nothing to do with her. But while her reactions are realistic and understandable, the story never demonizes her birth mother or her choices - which is a hard thing to pull off.
I also loved the way Lola presents herself to the world. She has an eye for fashion and a resolution to never wear the same outfit twice, which means her persona is always changing. You might even say that Lola herself “performs” her identity - through both her costumes, and through her tendency to lie or omit the truth. As a result, the question of “Who is Lola really?” comes up a lot throughout the book, and the questions that her choices bring up are important ones. Questions like: Is who we are how we perform ourselves? Are we the clothes we wear, or the things we say? What about the colour of our skin, or the gender we were assigned? Or are we something else entirely? I was perusing goodreads reviews of this book before reading it, and some people really didn’t like Lola because she has a tendency to lie and has extreme fashion choices. But these things give Lola power – something teenage girls have very little of.
Most of all, I loved this book because it was raw and true, in the sense that love is often complicated and messy and you’re not always the person you want to be, and you don’t always make the decisions you should. I usually avoid love triangles at all costs, but this one is done really well. It’s realistic in that it shows how much love triangles can really suck, and how much there is to learn from them. Lola’s choices make for a realistic, messy story (or maybe it’s just that I could relate to them), and this is why I loved her.
While the book is a companion book to Anna and the French Kiss, you certainly don’t have to read that one first – although, if you don’t, be warned: there are mild spoilers in this one. Characters from Stephanie Perkins' first book make appearances. (And if you haven’t read Anna and the French Kiss, what are you waiting for?! Seriously. It’s so swoony and good.)