I found Lola and the Boy Next Door to be every bit as charming as Anna and the French Kiss. Stephanie Perkins really has a knack for creating wonderfully quirky protagonists who steal your heart.
Dolores (Lola) Nolan is a budding fashion designer who lives in San Francisco with her two dads. She has an older boyfriend Max (who is a budding rock star) and a best friend who is determined to become a sleuth like Nancy Drew. Her parents do not approve of Max (who at twenty two is five years older than Lola) and subject their relationship to close scrutiny. Still Lola is happy with her life until she spots the moving truck next door. This moving truck brings the Bell family back into the neighbourhood. Calliope Bell, rising skating sensation, used to be a friend of Lola's when they were children but soon began treating Lola like a pariah when they reached school-age. It is Calliope's twin brother Cricket that Lola is truly dreading seeing though. Lola and Cricket were once very close, Lola fell head over heels for him two years prior, but then Cricket broke her heart and left town with his family. Now Cricket is back and he has made his feelings for Lola very clear.
Lola is conflicted. She loves Max but her feelings for Cricket never truly went away and now that he is back those feelings once again threaten to overwhelm her. Lola is determined to not be swayed by Cricket, not wanting to get hurt again and tries her best to prove that she is over him, but has she truly moved on from the boy next door?
I absolutely loved Lola and the Boy Next Door. It was the perfect follow up to Anna and the French Kiss. Lola (and Cricket) were very different from Anna (and Etienne) which actually made it easier to switch to a new perspective as if they had been too similar I would have constantly been comparing the two. Lola was a bit more childish than Anna and kind-of suffered from the same wishy-washiness that afflicted Etienne in the first book. There was a lot of dithering from Lola about who she wanted to be with (even though it was abundantly obvious!) and she could be quite bratty at times. However, this didn't annoy me too much and I still really liked her character. She was definitely an 'individual' with her creative wardrobe choices and sense of style. Cricket I just adored. He was just as charming as Etienne (though in a completely different way). Cricket really brought new meaning to the word endearing - he is sweet, loyal and attentive and has his own unique style too - very eccentric and off the wall. Cricket is so in love with Lola - would do anything for her and is there for her even when she is still trying to sort her feelings out. He doesn't push her to make a decision - he is willing to wait until she is ready (swoon).
Although I still prefer Anna and the French Kiss (I am more an Anna than a Lola) this was a worthy follow-up with characters you can't help but root for. The story was fun (I was laughing out loud at times when reading it) and just so gosh-darned sweet. I cannot believe I waited so long to read these two wonderful books and I really cannot wait for the third book Isla and the Happily Ever After.