BOOK REPORT: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Today we are diving into our second BOOK REPORT, a feature that we share every month. We both read the same book, chat about it, and post it here. With minor spoilers, we introduce one of our favorite authors and books…

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Release Date: September 29, 2011
Pages: 338
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Kindle download for Magan; Nook download for Estelle.
How we found out about it: We’re both huge (HUGE) fans of Stephanie Perkins; we pre-ordered Lola after finishing Anna and the French Kiss.
Summary: Lola’s life couldn’t be any better. She’s dating hot musician Max. (Who cares if her Dads don’t like him and make her check in every hour on the hour?) She’s planning on making an entrance in a self-made Marie Antoinette dress at Homecoming. Until one day, her old neighbor, Cricket Bell, moves back into the house next door with his family. She can’t help but remember what happened between the two of them, but is she sure she has moved on. Or has she?

Magan: So, our second Book Report – all bout Lola and the Boy Next Door!  And our favorite author, Stephanie Perkins! I swear, I. LOVE. HER.

Estelle: I absolutely love her too. I really think she opened me up to contemporary YA.  Before that I was always looking for YA books from when I was a kid.

Magan: Yeah, and I guess I assumed that YA had to mean paranormal, fantasy, or sci-fi.  It’s nice to read something that’s easy to relate to and realistic. …Though I’ve never met a boy named Cricket before. 🙂

Estelle: Exactly. I felt like I could have written these books myself and they were a reflection of my own experiences even if Anna and Lola are so different than I am.  Me neither! But now we all want to. 🙂

Magan: Yes!! I am not a crazy outfit wearer like Lola (though my husband does think I dress outrageously sometimes), but despite that I understood her so well.

Estelle: It’s funny that she felt like such an outcast because I thought she was really cool.

Magan: I think that was definitely one difference between Anna and Lola for me. We saw so much of Anna AT school because that’s where she lived, too. With Lola, a lot of the story takes place in her neighborhood because she and Cricket were no longer attending the same school.  A lot of how Lola felt was not how I perceived her – she seemed way cooler than she gave herself credit for.

Estelle: That’s a great point. I never thought about that.  Also both characters had very few friends.  That might be totally unrelated to what you are saying, but I thought that was interesting.

Magan: Oh, definitely a valid point.  I was so anxious to understand why Lola wasn’t wanting to interact with Cricket when he moved back to San Francisco.  Of course that only made his appeal that much greater. He was mysterious and I couldn’t wait to find out the back story.

Estelle: I agree. Lola was sort of living every girl’s dream – getting a second chance to deal with this old “relationship”.

Magan: Yeah! It definitely made me think about what that would have been like to run into a guy from my past.

Estelle: Yes, me too. Which is why books like this are super dangerous. Haha.

Magan: I don’t think it would have evolved as beautifully as Lola’s story did…not for me.  I saw Cricket as such a kind, good guy. There was so much miscommunication between him and Lola, though.  His sister only complicated things even more. Oh, and her older boyfriend…Max.  Oh, Max. I couldn’t stand him. I was so anxious for Lola to see what seemed apparent to everyone else – he wasn’t all that interested in her, he wasn’t very nice…

Estelle: I understand that it was about attraction. For both of them.  And I could relate to that too.  I understand so much of what she was saying. This is why I love Stephanie because it is all so true.

Magan: I didn’t have a bad relationship with an older guy – I met my husband when I was 16 and he was 4 years older than me. I couldn’t connect with every aspect of Lola’s relationship in the same way because I met an older guy who turned out to be amazing for me.

Estelle: That would definitely be different. I mean there were so many warning signals. Like how they always wanted to be alone with each other.  They didn’t fully enter each other’s lives.  It’s like this selfish kind of love. But also full of this insecurity from both of them.

Magan: The thing that was hardest for me was that they had eyes only for each other, but yet I felt how Lola wasn’t completely in love with him. I could tell there was unfinished business with Cricket that needed to be addressed.  She had to hide her friendship with Cricket from Max which only complicated things more.

Estelle: Very true.  I mean, when you hide things, it really means something.  Not that that something always means the right thing. i.e. Max and then Cricket.

Magan: She just wasn’t ready to be honest with herself.  In a lot of ways – Lola hid a lot – she dressed up in costume to avoid being honest about how uncomfortable she was in her own skin.  She hid her relationship with Cricket.  She only had one best friend and didn’t want to get close to anyone else.  [Sidenote: I’m listening to the Anna and the French Kiss playlist Stephanie Perkins created while we work on this!]  So, as much as I loved St. Clair in Anna, I think Cricket was my dream boy.

Estelle: I could see that.  I think Cricket was more down to earth and quieter.

Magan: Yeah, and his style – gosh, if I could get my husband to have a fraction of his style …

Estelle: Haha! I was thinking the same exact thing.  My husband is a lot better than he used to be but could never reach Cricket’s level.

Magan: You brought up a brilliant point about Cricket – he was quiet. There were times that I just wanted to shout at Cricket and Lola to tell them to speak their minds. They waltzed around each other a lot.  They had a big communication problem.  They were young and I knew they weren’t going to be perfect at saying what they needed to, but they had so much hidden from each other. If the truth had just gotten out there, they wouldn’t have wasted so much time.

Estelle: I think Cricket was scared to say so much. I loved the moment of them on the bus after Lola gets her glasses smashed. Their silence seemed to speak volumes for me.  He was a gentlemen.  Other people might not have been quite as patient with Lola about this whole Max thing and his feelings for her.

Magan: You’re absolutely right. I just wanted them to spend time talking instead of skating around everything.  His sister made things a million times more complicated than they should have been.

Estelle: It’s true.  I did like her inserted her in there. It’s nice to see that sometimes family can complicate things because so many of these YA novels focus on stupid bitches in school or all this me me me stuff.  Family has value in these books.

Magan: That is a lovely part of the books – her Dads mean a lot to Lola, Cricket drops almost everything for his sister, and they spend time baking pies together to help out.

Estelle: I loved that pie scene! Especially since I wanted some of those pies.

Magan: YES! I was reading this so late one night and hit that scene. Geez – midnight craving, much?!

Estelle: That’s another thing about Stephanie’s books. There are such specific moments. Like the pies, and Anna going to the movies with St. Clair. How Lola felt about her Dads, her mom and the tea reading, and then Anna’s thoughts about her Nicholas Sparks-like dad and the love for her brother.

Magan: I feel so connected to them.  Ultimately, both Anna and Lola hit home with me because Stephanie does a beautiful job of making her characters have more than just the hots for each other.  Anna and St. Clair were in love with each other forever, just like Lola and Cricket.  But it wasn’t love at first sight, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t 0.2 seconds and they were dating.  Her relationships are based on something more fundamental – a friendship – long before the characters ever begin to date.

Estelle: It’s true. With many YA novels, I get sad because I’m like how is this going to last? All through college? C’mon. I think that’s just because it never happened to me and I really wanted it too. I met my husband at a very strange time in my life. But I totally believed that L&C and A&E were forever. They each knew what was important in relationships, after all their shit calmed down. Communication and just trying. Listening to one another.

Magan: YES! I did meet my husband really young, but before then, I’d always told my mom I wanted to marry my best friend.  We would see movies together, hang out with friends, play games, and got to know each other so well. All the emotions come rushing back to me when I read Stephanie’s books – what it was like to meet Dustyn and to fall in love so young.  A friend of mine saw Stephanie at the Austin Teen Book Festival and Stephanie talked about how she believes in young love. She met her husband at a young age, too.

Estelle: I love that.  She manages to write about it in two books, so differently which is awesome.

Magan: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Estelle: Me me me me too.

Magan: So when it comes down to it – who are you? Lola or Anna?

Estelle: I’m definitely Lola. I think she questions things I can relate to a lot more.  This part: “Am I only fixated on Cricket because of our traumatic history? Because he was my first crush? Or does something about him transcend that?”  I’ve thought that so many times. Although never as nicely as Stephanie put it here.

Magan: Yeah, that was a beautiful part. I think it is very insightful for someone as young as Lola, too.

Estelle: I can relate to her relationship with Max, no matter how unhealthy it is. It reminded me of the mistakes I made.  I think Lola was always trying to discover herself too. Her relationship with her mom, her Dads, Max, even with Anna. But at the heart of it, she knew who she was.  It just takes some time to get there.

Magan: Did reading about Lola’s mistakes and self-discovery make you realize anything about yourself?

Estelle: …I think it taught me I’m still figuring it out.

Magan: Yeah, for sure.  Not many things are black and white.  I’m just so glad that Cricket was patient and kind and that he waited for her to figure it all out.

Estelle: That’s another thing: while I totally relate to Lola, she was a whole lot more grown up than I was.  She made him wait until she was happy, until she was whole, and I was like, crap. If I had just done that once in awhile…Haha.

Magan: Hahah.  I think that was probably a result of a few things in her life though – a mom abandoning her, having two gay dads, etc.  She had to grow up fast.

Estelle: Very true.

Magan: I am more of an Anna.  That story hit home on so many levels. I had a close knit group of friends just like she did once she got connected at the school. The boy I crushed over was just like St. Clair – my best friend in every way. We fought and joked back and forth just like them.  When I was lusting over him, he was dating someone. I’d get over him and be okay with just being friends and he would fall for me all over again. The relationship was confusing and hard to navigate.  Our ending, of course, isn’t like Anna and Etienne’s, but that’s okay. I ended up with my Cricket. 🙂

Estelle: A very happy ending, indeed.  I was thinking about Anna a little bit and how it was nice to see her come into her own as an independent woman.  Even if it meant being shipped off to France. That wasn’t something I could relate to, exactly, but I liked seeing this change in her.

Magan: I was such a people pleaser – and sometimes still can be – that I felt a lot like her. Who I was was very much a reflection of who I was around.  Do you remember the scene in Anna where her friends talk to her about how selfish she was – that she couldn’t see the problems others were going through because she was so focused on herself?  That was a big “OH GOSH – that was me!” moment for me.  One of my best friends in high school emailed me and told me exactly the same things. I turned every conversation into one about me and even though I was just trying to relate to the other person, I just seemed selfish.  I didn’t know how to just listen and not actively participate.  It was so weird to see a character going through that. In my life, I’m glad that really happened. It took me a long time to see the truth in it, but it’s one of the most honest, helpful things someone has ever told me.

Estelle: I love that you can find a moment like that in Anna.

Magan: Though YA is my go-to favorite, I find it hard to relate to a lot of the books. There are a lot of sexy characters, and I find a lot of it to be unrealistic.  I’m so thankful for Stephanie. She’s putting something out there that is just so real.

Estelle: I agree with you. It takes me so long to find a book that is relateable. I’m not sure if it’s because we are in our mid-20s or whatever but still… some of it is just so superficial and full of bullshit.  It’s a fun read that passes the time but very very few hit home with me.

Magan: Yeah, exactly. I wish I knew of more authors that were like Stephanie, but I think she’s just one-of-a-kind.

Estelle: There are few that come close but still don’t have the full package. I’m anxious to read everything I can in pursuit of another author who makes me feel the same way!!  Haha!

Magan: I know! I definitely see a change happening in YA literature right now – there is a lot more contemporary fiction than there used to be, and I’m so excited about it.

Estelle: Me too. I think it’s so important to be truthful in these books. I mean, kids needs something and someone to relate to even if it’s a fictional character. Books were always my source of comfort, and as an adult, I still find that same comfort in these books and others.  Even though I’m well past when I felt certain things — like Lola & Max’s situation — it still makes me feel good that someone felt that way too or it wouldn’t be written as convincingly in these books.

Magan: You’re so right. I think that it’s great to see relationships that aren’t easy, idealistic, or perfect. Not many things in life are (ever) that way and it’s refreshing to see someone who can put it out there so honestly.

Thank you for joining us for our BOOK REPORT on Lola and the Boy Next Door. We hope you’ll share your thoughts with us below. Who are you – Anna or Lola? If you haven’t read this book yet (gasp!) you should add it to your list!

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6 thoughts on “BOOK REPORT: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

  1. Jana says:

    I am SO Anna. I loved Lola with every fiber of my being, but I related more to Anna. Anna was in college… I have not been to Homecoming in, like, 6 years now! I think another part of my reason for this is that I’m pretty obsessed with Paris and men with French accents.

    I agree with you, Magan, when you said that Stephanie brings normal characters to the table. Not just a bunch of sexy ones who don’t even seem real.

    I’m also really excited about the contemporary shift in YA fiction. It doesn’t all have to be regency or paranormal.

    I loved reading your discussion! What a fun feature. 🙂

  2. Magan says:

    Thanks so much for the comment, Jana! It’s so much fun to see how we all identify with the different characters. Anna and Lola are so versatile and reach such a wide audience. I am so thankful Estelle told me to read Anna a few months ago. It’s opened me up to a world of awesomeness!

    Samual – THANKS! These are one of my favorite features, too. It’s going to be fun as we do more of them to see how they evolve. I’m sure we will have different opinions about some things on future books. I love discussing all the books with Estelle!

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