Given how much I loved Anna and the French Kiss, I was a little worried about reading Lola and the Boy Next Door. Thankfully, these fears were unfounded. Stephanie Perkins created another story filled with quirky, loveable characters, and adorable, heartwarming romance, but this time it was a touch more real: there's no Parisian setting and no swoon-worthy British boys (although there is a sweet, awkward one that completely captured my heart).
Lola is such a fabulous character. She dresses in themes, wearing quirky outfits and wigs transform her into a strawberry, Marie Antoinette, or whatever her heart desires that day. Lola undergoes a tremendous amount of growth, learning how to make the right decisions, even if they're hard. Along the way, she learns a lot about herself and becomes comfortable with who she is.
The boy next door, Cricket Bell, is one of my new favourite love interests. He's endearing and sweet, geeky, awkward at times, and such a real teenage boy. He's so genuinely nice and loves unconditionally, and his relationship with Lola made me loudly "awwwwww" at so many points. There seriously needs to be more nice guys in YA fiction. Or just more Cricket Bells.
The secondary characters (Calliope, Lindsey, Norah) are just as real. There's no disappearing parent syndrome in this one: Lola's relationship with her two gay dads is so sweet, and they are very much an important part of her life. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Anna and St. Clair made several appearances. Their relationship was adorable, as always, but I can't help but feel that they weren't the same independent characters that I fell in love with -- although that may be because it has been a while since I've read Anna and the French Kiss and because we're seeing them through Lola's eyes as "the happy couple."
Overall, I really enjoyed Lola and the Boy Next Door. Stephanie Perkins has definitely solidified her place on my auto-buy list, and I cannot wait for the release of Isla and the Happily Ever After.