As I mentioned when I reviewed Anna and the French Kiss, I’ve embarked on a new project – re-reading (er, listening) to some of my favorite books on audiobook. There are just some books I can’t let go of, and now that I’m blogging, I’d like to do a full review on them. In order to do them justice, re-reading is required… but I don’t have time for that. So, this is a total win-win. I get to experience some of my favorite books again and I can do it in a way that helps distract me from my commute in the often-times trying Washington, DC area traffic.
The second title I selected shouldn’t be a big surprise – Lola and the Boy Next Door. I fell in love with Lola and Cricket the first time I read them and I fell even more deeply this time around. Plus, there was the added bonus of some more Anna and Etienne, since I still wasn’t quite ready to give them up after I finished Anna and the French Kiss a few days before.
“There are some people in life that you can’t get over.”
This really should be the tagline for this book. It’s so, so very true in life in general and with this book in particular.
“I don’t believe in fashion. I believe in costume. Life is too short to be the same person every day.”
Meet Lola Nolan. Lola is 17. She’s dating a 22 year old man who is pretty much every father’s nightmare. Max is hot. He’s tattooed. He’s in a rock band. Lola has *two* dads, so Max gets to deal with two protective fathers. Lola’s dads like Max enough, they just don’t like that she’s dating him. I loved Lola. She’s strong and sassy, she’s smart and funny, she’s creative and quirky. She’s also flawed. She has a tendency to be selfish and to put herself before others. She lives in fear that her former childhood neighbors, the Bell twins, will move back in to their house. She hates the Bells… particularly Cricket… or so she says.
“Once upon a time, there was a girl who talked to the moon. And she was mysterious and she was perfect, in that way that girls who talk to moons are. In the house next door, there lived a boy. And the boy watched the girl grow more and more perfect, more and more beautiful with each passing year. He watched her watch the moon. And he began to wonder if the moon would help him unravel the mystery of the beautiful girl. So the boy looked into the sky. But he couldn’t concentrate on the moon. He was too distracted by the stars. And it didn’t matter how many songs or poems had already been written about them, because whenever he thought about the girl, the stars shone brighter. As if she were the only one keeping them illuminated.
One day, the boy had to move away. He couldn’t bring the girl with him, so he brought the stars. When he’d look out his window at night, he would start with one. One star. And the boy would make a wish on it, and the wish would be her name. At the sound of her name, a second star would appear. And then he’d wish her name again, and the stars would double into four. And four became eight, and eight became sixteen, and so on, in the greatest mathematical equation the universe had ever seen. And by the time an hour had passed, the sky would be filled with so many stars that it would wake his neighbors. People wondered who’d turned on the floodlights.
The boy did. But thinking about the girl.”
::huge squeeing sigh:: Oh, Cricket Bell. I don’t even know where to start with him. Cricket is absolutely, without question, in my top 5 favorite young adult contemporary book boyfriends. Cricket is absolutely squee-worthy. He’s smart, sweet, thoughtful, charming, innocent and, as we come to find out over time, absolutely head-over-heels in love with Lola. He’s not afraid to express his feelings. He dresses well, not like boys normally do. He is tall and slim and wears slim-fitting pants and shirts and has an arm full of bracelets and rubber bands, not tattoos. He’s the kind of guy Lola should be with.
“So you believe in second chances?” I bite my lip.
“Second, third, fourth. Whatever it takes. However long it takes. If the person is right,” he adds.
“If the person is… Lola?”
This time, he holds my gaze. “Only if the other person is Cricket.”
“I know you aren’t perfect. But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.”
The Bells, do in fact, move back next door to Lola. It turns out Lola doesn’t hate him as much as she’s absolutely mortified by being around him. She was in love with him when they were younger. She thought they were heading towards a relationship, but instead he didn’t invite her to his birthday party and then moved away. (No matter how I write that, it sounds ridiculously cheesy, but bear with me.) She’s not ready for him to be back in her life. She’s afraid old feelings will surface, and as you can imagine, they begin to. The chemistry between Lola and Cricket, the attraction and the teasing, it’s all so very real and right. As she and Cricket start to repair their friendship and grow even closer, she begins to see the real Max and they grow apart. Lola and Cricket are on a beautiful path together and I’m so happy to be with them.
“It’s easy to talk about things we hate, but sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly why we like something.”
Stephanie Perkins writes the books I would hope to write if I could write… Everything about this book is perfect to me. The characters are real and flawed and believable. The dialogue – both inner and between characters – is perfect. Conversational. The plot lines are intriguing and have just enough teenage angst to make it realistic. I connect immediately with her characters and find myself transported inside their world, always wanting more.
“What just happened?”
“Your father invited the former love of your life in for pie.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
Let me just say – I flipping love Lola’s dads. Several weeks ago, the Top Ten Tuesday topic was memorable secondary characters. I am kicking myself for not remembering these two when I wrote my list. They are incredible. Humorous. Caring. They’re truly special characters. Lola’s mom, Nora is deeply flawed, but she redeemed herself for me by the end of the book. Cricket’s twin, Calliope, grew on me as the book went on. I didn’t like her initially. I saw her as an obstacle to Lola and Cricket and thought she was selfish. She’s not so bad when you get past the exterior. Lola’s boyfriend, Max, was a complete jerk. I suspected it all along, and I was right. He was completely wrong for her, for more reasons than just the difference in their ages.
“Is this okay?” I whisper. “Are you okay?”
His reply is anguished. Honest. “I love you.”
This is a book about first love and friendship and family and second chances. It is, to date, one of my absolute favorite YA contemporaries. Every single person on the planet should read this book and learn first-hand why I love Lola and Cricket so much.