White girl with hair in a short dark bob with purple streaks rests her head on the shoulder of a white boy wearing a plaid shirt, as they both sit on a window sill overlooking houses on a hill

About the Book

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss #2)
Published: 2011
Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Cover Story: Brown Bag It
BFF Charm: Yay!!!!
Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Side of Pie
Bonus Factors: San Francisco, My Two Dads, Inventions, Cameos
Relationship Status: True Love

Cover Story: Brown Bag It

This cover isn’t terrible, I guess, but it screams “I’m reading YA romance, everybody! Judge me! Go ahead!” A girl has to keep up her street cred. Also, Lola’s eyes are supposed to be brown, and also, also? That girl on the cover is 26, if she’s a day.

The Deal:

Lola really only wants three things to happen in her teen life in order for her to be completely happy: to go to her winter formal dressed as Marie Antoinette, for her parents to accept her boyfriend, and to never see the Bell twins (Calliope and Cricket) again. Unfortunately, the Bells have just moved back into their house — right next door.

You see, Lola and Cricket Bell used to kind of be best friends. And then they almost became more-than best friends — before Cricket did something really mean and then moved away.

BFF Charm: Yay!!!!

Yay BFF Charm

Lola has big plans to become a designer, and dresses the part. Her wardrobe is comprised of more costumes than Bjork’s, and there were moments that had me shaking my head sympathetically and saying , “Oh honey, you remind me of me at 17. Don’t worry, you’ll grow up and figure it out one day.” because platform combat boots? They really aren’t a good look. Even at 17. Anywho, Lola’s voice was so authentically eccentric that I knew she’d weed out the parts of her self-expression that were fake, and she’d learn to really be herself — as soon as she figured out who that was. As an old, I understand that that is a process that continues throughout our lives, but I was pleased that Lola got on the path of self-awareness and self-truthfulness as the book went on. She made me so proud, she had me wishing I had a teenage daughter just like her. And pretty much nothing makes me want teenagers.

Swoonworthy Scale: -1 and 9

Lola really thinks she has it all with her rocker boyfriend, Max. I mean, he bleaches his dark hair blonde (Gag. Stuck in the ’90’s, much?), his arms are covered with tattoos of spider webs and stars (as someone who got stars tattooed on her arms long before it became a THING, I lower my head in embarrassment and oft want to yell at the 18-22 year olds walking around with sleeves of tattoo flash that THOSE THINGS ARE GOING TO BE ON YOUR BODY FOREVER!!! And also that they should raise the tattoo age limit to 30), and he suffers through Sunday brunch with her very disapproving parents EVERY WEEK (oh, if I could only suffer through pancakes and frittatas made by a chef every Sunday). On top of all of that, Max is 5 years older than Lola, and although that wouldn’t matter so much if they were 24 and 29, I think I’ve made it clear how I feel about teenagers dating older men. Even though Max is made less creepy by the fact that Lola lied to him about her age until after they had fallen in love, it’s still… yuck.

Which brings me to Cricket. First of all, only an adorable genius inventor could pull off the name ‘Cricket’. Second, Cricket I L U!!!!!! I’ll leave it at that.

Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Side of Pie

I already mentioned how right-on Lola’s voice was, and that’s saying something considering the fantastical setting Perkins chose for this book. Every character is larger than life, from Lola’s eccentricity to Calliope Bell’s champion figure skating. Each character is special and spectacular in a way that is completely unbelievable, but oh-so-fun to experience. Add to that the level of sweetness that this story exudes, and you could seriously overdose on the fanciful (both literally and figuratively — Lola’s dad Andy makes pies for a living. Have I ever told you how much I love pies? I could eat nothing but pies, all day, every day, because you can have varying levels of sweetness — I prefer fruit pies and nut pies — to savory — my recipe for steak and ale pie is killer. The only kind of pies I don’t really like are cream pies, but I digress). However, since most of the books I’ve read recently have been of the dystopic variety, I treasured the sweetness instead of it sending me into a sugar coma.

Perkins manages in this book to have a completely different voice from what she used in Anna and the French Kiss, and I think I liked this one even more than her debut novel.

Bonus Factor: San Francisco

View of the city of San Francisco with the Painted Ladies houses in the foreground

I’ve only ever been to San Francisco once, but I immediately wanted to move there. Lola and her parents live in the Castro, where I got my hair cut by this crazy Samoan woman, and was pretty much my favorite place in the world.

Bonus Factor: My Two Dads

Nicole (Staci Keanan) stands using crutches while Michael (Paul Reiser) and Joey (Greg Evigan) look fondly at her

Hurray for a realistic portrayal of gay parents!!!! I fell as equally in love with Andy and Nathan as I did with Lola herself, and if I could pick two parents out of literary history to be my own, I’d choose them.

Bonus Factor: Inventions

Circuitry of wires, batteries, and circuit board

Cricket Bell, have I told you yet today how much I love you and your Rube Goldberg-inspired inventions and your flair for wearing stylish pants?

Bonus Factor: Cameos

Stan Lee, dressed in a FedEx uniform, holds a package for "Tony Stank" in one of his many Marvel movie cameos

I love it when characters from an author’s previous book make appearances in their follow-up stories. So without giving too much away, let me just tell you that Lola works in a movie theatre.

Relationship Status: True Love

I figured I could go on about how in love this book and I are, or how we’re going to make lots of babies and live happily ever after in the Castro with all of our spectacular friends, but instead, I’ll just relay to you what happened when I finished it: I went girly. Like, super-duper-I-can’t-believe-I’m-telling-you-this, girly. I closed the book and held it in my hands and cried. I felt so overwhelmed with sweetness and happiness and romance that I cried like I cry every time I hear Hagrid utter, “You’re the boy who lived.” and every time I watch the Christmas scene in Auntie Mame. I did it. I cried, and I held this book, and I’m only a little embarrassed to admit it.

FTC FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my review copy from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Lola and the Boy Next Door is available now.