Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins was so exactly what I was hoping for. It delivered on everything I could possibly asked for. I had really high hopes for this one, and I'm glad to say that it more than met them.
Lola is one of the quirkiest characters I've ever met. I've used that word before — quirky — but I'm not sure it's every truly fit someone the way it fits Lola. I might just have to go take it back from every other person I've ever called quirky. Lola expresses her thoughts, emotions, and herself through her wardrobe. And honestly — (given her crazy costumes) it's a good thing that she lives in San Francisco: P But oh, did I love Lola. Clothes are not something I've ever been passionate about, and I hate shopping for them. If I'm lucky enough to find something that I really like, I've been known to buy it in a least two colors. For every day clothes, I almost always choose comfortable over fashionable, and I have no problem going to the store in the middle of the afternoon in my giant over-sized fleece pajama pants if I'm cold. So I loved the chance to live vicariously through Lola's outfits. She's crazy, but I loved it!
I also loved that, although her family is unconventional, Lola has a loving family who is interested in her life and actually pays attention. They have a weekly meal with her boyfriend, making sure that he's a part of their life too, because he's important to their daughter and although her dads can be rather overprotective, it's so nice to read about parents who actually care about their kids enough to make them a priority.
As for the boys — Initially, I liked them both. Lola is dating Max, an older rocker dude when the story begins, but then Cricket moves back in next door, and she's definitely got some 'unresolveds' with that boy. In the beginning, the only problem I had with Max was their age difference. A few years isn't a big deal once everyone is out of high school, but someone in their 20s should probably stay far away from high school juniors... (and by probably, I mean just do it.) But other than that, he seemed like a great guy, at least until Cricket moved back and then it seemed like, from nowhere — suddenly Max is actually a sleaze ball.
This is the only part of the story that I was disappointed with. I wish that Perkins had done more to make Max obviously a flawed character from the beginning, because I felt like he had an abrupt personality shift as soon as Cricket showed up, to make it more obvious and easier for Lola that she needed to dump the jerk-face and move on to the awesome out her bedroom window. That underlying edge of yuck needed to have been there from the beginning and I just didn't feel it.
But Cricket. Le sigh. I really liked Cricket. He's goofy and funny and kind of a little bit awkward. But he's definitely attracted to Lola. That's something that's clear right from the beginning. And whether she wants it or not, Lola definitely still feels it too. And I loved watching their relationship change and grow and progress. Cricket was my favorite character. And not because of the 'swoon' stuff, but just because he's awesome, and (aside from the whole — awesomely talented inventor thing) he feels like someone I could know, someone I would hang out with, someone I could be friends with.
The secondary cast in this book is also awesome. From awesome best friend of Lola, to the hateful but perhaps misunderstood twin sister of Cricket, to the unconventional family (two dads [one of whom is actually also an uncle] and an occasional appearance of the biological mom) to a certain reappearing couple from a previous book, the supporting characters in this story really gave it the depth and umph it needed to be awesome. Seriously — this is a book I'm going to buy and reread. It's a book that just begs to have the favorite scenes read over and over again, and it's one I definitely look forward to keeping on my shelves. It's another one that I can see being added to that selection of comfort reads.
*Disclaimer — Borrowed a copy from Around the World Tours.