I was browsing through my library’s latest e-book additions, and saw Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. I knew nothing about the book, but I remembered book bloggers mentioning the title on Twitter a while ago, in tweet-sized bursts of excitement and anticipation. Figuring it would be a fun read, and a quick one, I placed a hold on it, and was able to start reading it about a week ago.
Lola is a high school junior who’s dating a 22-year-old musician. She also has a unique fashion sense that includes designing and making her own clothes and wearing all kinds of wigs. As someone with very limited and hum-drum fashion experience, and having never worn a wig in my life (as far as I recall), it took me a while to get into those parts of the story, and to appreciate that aspect of Lola’s character. But I enjoyed the book right from the start, and about a third of the way in, I was beyond hooked. This book is full of squee!
The Boy Next Door mentioned in the title isn’t the musician boyfriend who’s really a bit too old for Lola, but The Boy Who Used to Live Next Door and Broke Lola’s Heart Before Moving Away. Early in the story, Lola sees her neighbors moving out, and soon, the family of The Boy Next Door moves back in. Please suspend your judgment on this point: the boy’s name is Cricket Bell. I think Cricket is a completely idiotic choice for a name, especially for a male, and it only makes a tiny bit more sense when we know his twin sister is named Calliope. Beautiful and drool-worthy people can have less-than-lovely names; I had a crush on a boy named Harvey when I was very young, who coincidentally had the same kind of dark hair and bright blue eyes that Stephanie Perkins has given to Cricket Bell, and while I found the name Harvey unfortunate, the fact that I remember him fondly (dreamily?) some 27 years later is proof that a person can have a lot of beauty lying behind a less-than-flattering name.
So, Cricket has grown into a handsome young man, which is not surprising. What did surprise me was the fact that he was actually a nice guy, a truly good person, almost from his first appearance in the book. He didn’t play games with Lola, but told her early in the story that he’d felt badly about their falling out before the Bells moved away, that he’d always thought she was special, that he’d always liked her, and still did. I don’t read lots of young adult novels, but this seemed to me like a refreshing change, a very attractive guy openly proclaiming his feelings to a girl, because given their history, he thinks it would be wrong to pretend he isn’t interested. Lola spent two years hating Cricket for hurting her, and it takes a while for her feelings to thaw. Also, Lola’s relationship with Max, her musician boyfriend, is pretty serious — at least on Lola’s side.
This book reminded me of what it was like to be a teenager, and at times it made me wish that I was 18 again. I finished reading it on Tuesday morning before work, but then on Wednesday night before bed, I was skimming back through it again, re-reading scenes and highlighting passages. I wasn’t ready to leave it and move on to another book, and figured I’d need to force myself out of my (too-long, unintended) blogging hiatus to write about it, before starting my next read. It’s hard to decide where to go now, when I’m still in Lola’s room, standing behind her as she looks out the window and talks to Cricket, who’s leaning out of his window in the house next door.