Sunday, October 23, 2011
Lola and the Boy Next Door - Stephanie Perkins
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Australian Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Date of Publication: October 3, 2011
Length: 348 pages
From Penguin Australia: 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 neighbourhood. 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 have been looking forward to reading this for quite a while – pretty much since the start of the year when the cover and blurb were released. A San Francisco setting, a girl obsessed with the costume aspect of fashion, and twins?! Count me in! Combined with Stephanie Perkins incredibly charming writing style, I knew October could not come fast enough for me.
I’ll start with our heroine, Lola Nolan. As an aspiring costume designer, Lola’s life revolves around fashion and for her each day is the chance to create a new ensemble and channel new inspiration into her apparel. When she’s not dreaming up Marie Antoinette inspired gowns for her school dance, she’s working at a cinema (with a few familiar faces) or hanging with her older rock muso boyfriend. She also gets along well with her parents and has a wannabe-detective best friend, and everything is going along relatively swimmingly until the Bell twins move back into the house next door. What I loved about Lola and about this story was the fact it has both a romantic aspect (love triangle), as well being introspective and encompassing a strong sense of self-discovery and family.
Now Cricket Bell!!! Firstly, is that not an amazing name? (I am rather fond of teenage characters in contemporary fiction with quirky-but-not-too-quirky names). I am now going to share something that may shock the pants off/anger/upset/confuse people and even though I hate to do the comparisons, I’m going to make one right now – I think liked Cricket more than Etienne. I felt Cricket was slightly more realistic and once again, Stephanie has done a great job at writing male characters who are engaging and likeable outside of their function as potential love interests. Cricket comes across as so awkward and genuine, that you can’t help but like him – especially combined with the little details she sprinkles throughout (the bracelets, the inventions and the tight pants!) certainly helps us understand why the return of Cricket Bell causes such a stir.
Besides the loveliness that is Cricket Bell, the other aspect that really appealed to me was how (surprisingly) family-centric the novel is. The relationship between Lola and her two fathers was well-written and realistic, and I felt like Stephanie Perkins handled the topic of same-sex parenting with sensitivity and warmth. I hope to read more YA stories which encompass this in the near future. I also thought it was interesting the way in which Lola’s relationship with her birth mother was explored and strengthened the romantic plotlines.
My other favourite thing was the San Francisco setting – having just come back from visiting there (yes, I’m going to through it into random conversation for the next four weeks at least!), I was pretty excited to recognise places in the city that Lola and her friends and family visit. The Japanese Tea Garden, Amoeba Records and Lombard Street (to name a few) are all featured, and Stephanie does an excellent job at capturing the sights, sounds and spirit of San Francisco.
Once again, Stephanie Perkins has authored a swoon-worthy young adult novel. Lola and the Boy Next Door may appear to be light and fluffy on the outside and is certainly written with a funny and sweet touch, but still manages to touch upon a wide range of real teen issues with heart and honesty.