Teen Love Triangle Without Vampires or Werewolves: The TFT Review of Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Lola and the Boy Next Door, Stephanie Perkins’ follow-up to her tale of Parisian love in Anna and the French Kiss, puts every YA quirk in a single novel. This isn’t a condemnation; if you put every topping on your sundae, it would still be delicious.
Lola has a unique passion (costume design), two dads (one of whom is a biological uncle), a bad boy beau (older and a musician), a quirky BFF (an aspiring detective), and a reemergent long lost love. It is the teen lit novel equivalent of the everything bagel or the everything lovers pizza, which are, again, delicious things.
Our fearless protagonist lives with her fathers, crossing her fingers they’ll come to love her boyfriend as much as she does in spite of the age difference (twenty-two to her sixteen). She also keeps her fingers crossed her biological mom will stay sober or at least away, her latest costume endeavor (Marie Antoinette) will turn out as she imagined, and that she’ll never have to see the boy who broke her heart freshman year, the boy who lived next door.
Unfortunately her mom ends up crashing at her house, hoop skirts are more difficult to fashion then it seemed, and her long ago love has moved back in.
It might have been easy to hate the infamous Cricket Bell, plotting revenge on her side of their side-by-side windows. But Cricket, still handsome and smart as ever, quickly explains the shattering of Lola’s poor fourteen-year-old heart was a misunderstanding, and admits he’s been crushing on her since he left two years ago. So Lola must decide between her older, rocker man or the cute college guy she could talk to with a tin can phone. The problems of youth.
Perkins also treats fans of Anna and the French kiss to a peak into Anna and St. Clair’s post declaration-of-love bliss. Better than a sequel, when we’d have to delve into their struggles, Anna in the role of Lola’s friend and co-worker with her cute English boyfriend always tagging along, is shown in happy snapshots, a Facebook album of a head-over-heels college couple.
There are a few times when Lola and the Boy Next Door sputters, like when Lola pauses, without provocation, to tell the reader how she hates when people want one of her dads to be the woman and one to be the man (a valid annoyance, but the characters don’t prompt it).
Lola is an incredibly well-crafted character who you can get frustrated with while always rooting for her. From her ever-present love for her parents in spite of her frustration with their actions, to her love of standing out with her elaborate outfits, coupled with her embarrassment over the teasing she gets for them, she’s never flat or stereotypical.
Perkins also manages to keep a tension throughout, a sense of will-they-or -won’t-they between Lola and Cricket in spite of the happy ending the cozy cover photo suggests. The reader is always left questioning Lola’s final decision, which makes this an exciting read as well.
Lola and the Boy Next Door is an entirely human version of the classic vampire-girl-werewolf love triangle. And it’s funny and clever enough that the sub-genre might catch on.
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