It’s a terrible thing to have to follow a book like Anna and the French Kiss. And maybe because it is such a hard thing, Perkins trots Anna and Etienne out as minor characters in Lola and the Boy Next Door. It’s a risk, since for as many people as will find it charming there will be as many that are annoyed to see their favorites reduced to caricatures of their former selves. I didn’t think it did Lola any favors; this tie-in almost forced it into Anna’s shadow.
So can Perkins’ much anticipated follow-up live up to the hype? In my opinion, it couldn’t, but honestly, it shouldn’t have to. As its own book, separate from Perkins’ other work, Lola and the Boy Next Door is pretty charming. Lola is pretty happy in her life. She’s dating a much older musician and her parents are tolerating him; she’s got a wild sense of style and an awesome and supportive best friend. But when her former neighbors move back into their old house, it means the boy she’s always loved is now just a heartbeat away. Which shouldn’t really matter, because Lola has a boyfriend that she’s in love with. Except it does matter. It really, really does. Lola finds herself having to decide who matters most, her oh so cool rocker boyfriend or sweet, slightly awkward Cricket.
Perkins continues to excel at creating male leads that girls will fall for, and that is absolutely a strength in this book. If you’re looking for a guy who melts your heart, he’s certainly here. Lola, on the other hand, is a less universal character. She gets the Etienne role from the other book, the character caught in a love triangle, and for girls who associate more with Anna she may be hard to like. But for those who have been caught between two guys, her actions may make a lot more sense.
The content in this book is a bit racier than Anna and the French Kiss, so please read the “sex” listing below carefully before deciding if this is right for your teen.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Right up front, let’s get it out of the way, Lola has two dads. This means that her life quite obviously involves the gay community. In addition to her parents relationship, there is mention of a trans character. If this is not something you’re comfortable with, just skip the book. For everyone else, expect to find an adorable romance book that neither ignores or makes a huge deal of a non-traditional family structure. Lola’s primary relationship is with a 22 year old. She’s 17. In fact, she sleeps with him on her 17th birthday, so there is some statutory rape going on. There continues to be sex throughout the book, although it’s not graphic. There is kissing, groping and otherwise sexual behavior though that is written about in a racy manner. There are sexual jokes made. A roommate worries that Cricket is gay and looking at his “junk”. A neighbor collects molds of vaginas. A manicure place is called “Hand Job”. Lola thinks her dads worry that if they forbade her relationship she’d get into more trouble like stripping. While it’s not heavily done, there is some consideration of what sex means to those involved.
Profanity – “dillhole,” “damn,” “arse/ass,” “bitchy,” “shit,” “hell,” “bloody,” “shove it,” “fucking,”
Death, Violence and Gore – There is a small kitchen accident with a knife.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Max smokes, drinks, gets high. Lola expects Cricket would be off chugging beer and a kegger but he says he’s not much for drinking. Lola’s birth parents have addiction and use issues (both drugs and alcohol). Lola thinks that her dads worry that if they stopped her from seeing Max she’d do something wild like deal drugs.
Frightening or Intense Things – The fact of Lola’s adoption is a fairly major part of this story. There are issues throughout with her relationship with her birth mother, and her birth mothers own problems with addiction, trouble with the law and homelessness. It does not make light of the fact of Lola’s adoption, nor of the disparity between her life with her fathers and her mother’s lifestyle.