Author: Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss
Publish Date: July 9th, 2013
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Anna and the French Kiss was my first foray into Stephanie Perkins’ work, and I immediately fell in love with the writing style and quirky characters and plot. I was hoping to say the same about Lola and the Boy Next Door and had very high expectations for the book as a result, but I quickly found myself disappointed.
I found the plot to be frustratingly similar to that of Anna and the French Kiss with Lola’s multiple love interests and the inevitable hurt feelings as a result. Simply reimagine Anna and the French Kiss from St. Clair’s perspective and you have the entire plot of Lola and the Boy Next Door (with a few added over-reactions and tantrums on Lola’s part).
Lola had an incredible talent of repeatedly getting on my nerves, coming across as whiny and immature and giving me the intense urge to strangle her on several occasions. Her rash decisions often backfired or injured those around her, regardless of whether or not she recognized their negative consequences. She was also a habitual liar – unnecessarily lying to both herself and those around her, such as her parents. While I’m a huge proponent for original characters, Lola was a bit too unique – her heavily-sequined and wig laden wardrobe was bordering on absurd, and I could have cared less about her pink, glittery room. Of even more concern is Lola’s selfishness, which is particularly evident through her stringing along of Cricket for the entirety of the novel and her poor treatment of Lindsey, her one and only close friend. Despite my best efforts to like her as a character, I couldn’t relate to Lola or move past her over the top personality quirks and excessive attitude.
Cricket was portrayed as a stereotypical geek and a puppy dog who allowed himself to be walked all over by his controlling twin sister and, at times, by Lola, as well. I’m not sure if all this was a ploy to evoke reader sympathy, but it certainly wasn’t effective. While Cricket’s character was at least tolerable, I didn’t find him particularly attractive. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around a sexy nerd with “impeccable” hair. Lola clearly had no problem constantly swooning over him, though, despite the fact that he was absent from the majority of the book. And finally, let’s address his atrocious name: who names their child after an insect? Frankly, I’m surprised that Perkins’ editors didn’t suggest an alternate name – I would have preferred nearly anything else (Paul? Frank? Even Bob?).
Max served as a foil for Cricket, fulfilling the tattooed, rocker boyfriend role with a tendency to rub Lola’s parents the wrong way. Lola seemed to cling to him in a rebellious effort and unnecessarily prolonged their already strained relationship. As the novel progresses, Max comes across as more and more of a jerk, particularly when he learns of Lola’s attraction to Cricket. Readers then have an opportunity to see Max’s dominant, over-controlling side, which is unpleasant to say the least.
Seeing as I couldn’t bring myself to like Lola, Cricket, or Max, the romances became increasingly frustrating as the book progressed. Lola spent a good portion of the book dating Max but pining over Cricket, despite his constant physical absence from the novel. All of the relationships portrayed in the novel, including that of Anna and St. Claire, emphasized devoting the entirety of one’s time to a significant other. While I am in no way anti-romance, I don’t think this is the right way to go about it – each member of a relationship should be able to retain his/her own personality, interests, and friends instead of becoming a Siamese twins with his/her partner.
The inclusion of Anna and St. Claire upon their return from Paris served as the novel’s one redeeming quality. While they both held minor roles, I loved seeing the progression of their relationship and the extent to which they had grown since the conclusion of Anna and the French Kiss.
Overall, the majority of the book was surreal and unrealistic, from the ridiculous character names (Cricket, Calliope – seriously?), to the outrageous outfits and overly coincidental events. The title itself contributed to the predictable plot – before even cracking open the book, I had a fairly good idea that the main character would fall head over heels for her next door neighbor. After thoroughly enjoying Anna and the French Kiss, I found Lola and the Boy Next Door to be a considerable let-down. Consequently, I’m rethinking my decision to read Isla and the Happily Ever After later this summer (I’m still clinging to some small shred of hope that it will be comparable to Anna and the French Kiss).