Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
I read Anna and the French Kiss earlier this year and I loved it. It was teen Chick Lit perfection. I loved the setting of France, I loved Anna, I loved the writing, but what I fell most in love with was Etienne St Clair. Really, Etienne St Claire was perfection – as Chandler might say (Chandler, from Friends, FYI). The book was perfect. Really, truly. So Lola and the Boy Next Door had a lot to live up to. A lot.
Second novels are always ripe for suffering from second novel syndrome. It’s the same for anything – TV shows, films, video games – all can suffer from second syndrome. It’s inevitable. For me, Lola suffers second novel syndrome. It’s not a terrible book and it’s still as readable as Anna but there’s something I can’t really put my finger on that wasn’t as good. Something that made it just not as good as Anna. Something that made me hesitant while reading it. Something that sort of put me off.
There were lots of things I liked, though. I was surprised Lola’s parents are two gay guys, but I got over it quickly and it was actually my favourite part. It’s not something you generally see in novels, so it was nice that Perkins did that. It suited the book and I couldn’t see it any different now. I liked that there were no excuses for it, either. That Lola told us when Andy and Nathan were on dates. It was very forthcoming. I loved Cricket. His enthusiasm, the way he writes things on his arm, his height, his rubber bands, but mostly his boundless energy. I loved how bouncy he was, how cheerful. He’s very different to St Clair, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. I liked Lola’s best friend Lindsey (though for a best friend, she wasn’t in the novel as much as best friends usually are). I liked the fact Lola wore costumes, well, actually, I’m divided over that.
What I didn’t like was Lola. I mean, she had her moments where I liked her. But she also acted like a totally spoilt brat for a lot of the book. She wanted everything and just wasn’t willing to make a decision regarding Max and Cricket. It was irritating. Although I know teens are indecisive, it didn’t come across as indecisive, it came across as vindictive. As if Lola enjoyed having both guys after her. While I liked her costume addiction – I love the idea of dressing up as someone else and having different hair and clothes each day – I do also see Max’s whole fake speech. I do somewhat feel that costumes although bright and colourful and beautiful that they’re also masks. Being a teenager is not an excuse for the way Lola acts most of the time and it’s a shame Perkins sort of made that as some kind of excuse. It’s not explicitly stated, but the implication is there all the same.
Yup, Lola divided me. The best part was Anna and Etienne being back, although that didn’t help Lola’s cause since Anna is totally awesome and sweet. Having Anna and Etienne back made me yearn to re-read Anna again. It made me remember the book, made me want to go back to how they began, how it all started, how it all ended, how the magic all happened. I enjoyed Lola for the most part, but I did have issues with it. It wasn’t as flawless, wasn’t as magical as Anna. It didn’t seem to have the same sparkle, although the ending did make me want to squee with joy. I hope Isla is better. In fact, I think Isla probably will be because from the little we see of Isla in Anna, she seemed lovely.