Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review: Lola and The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Pages: 368
Genre: Teenage Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: 09/06/2013
First Published: 28/09/2011
I bought this online.

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion...she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit--more sparkly, more fun, more wild--the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket--a gifted inventor--steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I finished this book sometime last week (or was it the week before?) and I have been meaning to review it but I wasn't really sure what I thought. I have heard some great things about this novel and other books by the same author, And I had just finished reading a really awesome book when I picked this up so expectations were kind of high. After some thought I think I know where I stand on this one. It was enjoyable, but was it the best contemporary teenage book ever? definitely not.

Lola is probably not one of those characters that everyone is going to love. She is a little immature and she is very quirky. I actually didn't mind her. I wasn't a fan of the foolish choices she sometimes made, but I did actually like that she was a bit snarky and that she had this devil-may-care attitude about her clothing choices. Lola is an aspiring fashion designer and I really appreciated the clothes-obsessed aspect of the novel. I think a lot of girls who are into goth, vintage or have a generally quirky dress sense will appreciate this aspect of the novel too.

In the novel Stephanie Perkins explores the concept of clothing a little bit and you does get us to think about it as something other than fabric-that-prevents-us-from-being-cold-or-naked. While dressing up is a part of who Lola is, she does start to question whether or not these costumes prevent her from being herself and how it affects the way that people perceive her. While I didn't love everything that Lola wore I thought it was great that I got to read a book about a character who likes to dress up without being made to sound vain. I feel like a lot of authors do make the girly characters out to be the villain-types and I was glad that Perkins was not one of them. Obviously if you are not a fan of costume you may find this book a little uninteresting.

Another theme that is included in 'Lola and the Boy Next Door' is the theme of fantasy vs reality. Not only does Lola struggle with the idea of who she is and how her passion for costume affects this, she also struggles to figure out what is real. She finds herself questioning whether dating the older-man (and rock god) is really what she wants or if the whole thing is just a teenage fantasy. Or is the other boy - the boy next door - just a childhood fantasy?

Yeah, there is a love triangle. I actually didn't have an issue with this one though. Lola was already going out with one guy at the beginning of the book and the other guy is a childhood crush that comes back to town. So, I think this is actually pretty realistic. And, if anything love triangle is only part of the journey to self-discovery. Who Lola chooses only really announces the path she has chosen for her life. Yes the story is romantic and yes she does have feelings for both of them, but Lola defining her feelings and making the choice is definitely more about her than it is about them.

When I first heard about this book I heard the words "gay dads" mentioned a bit, so my first thought was that sexuality and homosexuality in general were going to be themes in this novel. Not that there is anything wrong with that. This actually wasn't the case though. I found that this aspect of the novel was more about the theme of family and what it means to be a family. While Lola's family was not conventional, it definitely was not devoid of love. Insight of the neighbouring family helps as well as the situation with Lola's real mother helps us to see this. I felt like Lola's parents were the perfect balance of supportive and strict and in some ways their method of parenting reminded me a lot of my own parents.

I felt like some aspects of this novel were a little unrealistic. I felt like some of the costumes Lola wore were a little theatrical and like she was allowed to get away with them more than what was realistic. For example she wore a Cleopatra outfit to school. Cool, I totally dig the 1960s Cleopatra look, but she wore a bed-sheet made into a dress as well as bold eyeliner, a wig and jewellery. Now I know a lot of schools over in the states don't have uniforms, but I would have thought there'd be some sort of dress code that dictates to what the students can get away with.

I also didn't really like the immaturity. I thought Lola was awesome, really, but I felt like she was one of the biggest obstacles in her own story and not in a good way. I get that her journey to self discovery was a big part of the story, but I really wish that Perkins had managed to achieve this without making me want to head-desk every time Lola made a stupid immature move.

Overall, I had a lot of trouble figuring out what to rate this. While I did really enjoy the book and could not stop reading it at times, it wasn't "favourite" material. So I decided that this book was worth a 4.5 out of 5 stars. For me it was definitely an interesting story and I did like the world that Perkins created, but I'm not about to re-read this anytime soon. I think I would definitely be interested in reading more by this author and I would definitely recommend this book to girls who like to dress up (and like to read contemporary teenage fiction.

P.S. I think the cover is beautiful, but it has nothing to do with the story.

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1 comment:

Jessica Cangiano said...

Lovely review! It is a beautiful cover, I agree. It's always a bit strange though when the cover has little to nothing to do with the story. One can't help but wonder if that hurts or helps a title given the age old axiom that you "can't judge a book by its cover". :)

♥ Jessica