Lola and the Boy Next Door
Spoiler Rating: Moderate
Why hello, Lizzy!
I’ve found a quick, enjoyable romance for you, featuring a girl after your own heart and some interesting identity-related issues. Care to hear about it?
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.
Lola Has Ambition and a Clear Life Goal
Lizzy, I know you haven’t read Twilight, which is both unsurprising and a very good idea on your part–but if you had, you would’ve been making snarly faces at Bella’s apathy and lack of direction in life. You would’ve learned that she likes to read Jane Austen novels, but that’s about it. No thoughts of her future or dreams she’d like to pursue, no excitement about anything, really.
That’s not uncommon in YA protagonists, though. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single (modern-day high school) protagonist who knew exactly what she or he wanted to do post-graduation and couldn’t wait to do it. A lot of them don’t even think about college. Do authors believe that if a character is mentally and emotionally preparing herself for her future, the events that occur while she’s still in high school will be less emotionally/mentally significant than if she is focused solely on the here-and-now? If so, that’s silly. Stop it, authors. It comes across as lazy writing and character development, at the very least.
And I’m stepping away from the soapbox now.
Lola’s passion about costuming is exactly that: a passion that affects her daily life, and one that she’s eager to shape the rest of her life around. This is awesome.
She’s not the only person with a plan in this book. Her best friend knows exactly what she’s destined for and won’t let anyone (even the cute boy she’s crushing on) stand in the way of her future. Sexy Boy Cricket’s twin sister is a Olympic-hopeful figure skater who has been training since childhood for a gold medal. Even Sexy Boy Cricket, an inventor/engineer who feels his future has always taken second place to his sister’s, has a dream that he hopes to pursue. Even Lola’s bad-boy boyfriend is working hard to widen his rock band’s circuit to include more of California. As a result, all of these characters (uh, well, with the exception of that bad-boy boyfriend) read as much more fleshed-out than the general horde of futureless characters.
Let’s have more characters with passions and ambitions they’ll pursue beyond high school, shall we?
The Identity Issue
Cute romance though this book may be, it has more on its mind than getting its characters into prime smooching position; it has Major Identity Issues to burden Lola with.
Lola’s identity is an obvious focal point from the first page (where she describes her ideal dress for her school’s winter formal: all Marie Antoinette, complete with a fake bird in her hair, but with platform combat boots to show that even under the gaudy finery she’s still “punk-rock tough”), and plays a significant role in the story’s conflict(s) and, most dramatically, the story’s climax.
Subtle as a sledgehammer. But trust me, you’ll like it. (What’s not to like about a romance that has a dose of Serious Personal Issues at its heart?)
Lola’s Parents are Parents, Not “Gay Parents”
There’s a meme that’s been going around for a while that points out how (and I’m totally making these examples up off the top of my head because I don’t remember exactly what the meme says and am too lazy to delve into the abyss of the Internet to find it) a gay person doesn’t gay vote, they vote. They don’t gay swim, they swim. They don’t get gay married, they get married. Referring to marriage between gay people as “gay marriage” sets it apart from/subordinate to/less legitimate than marriage between straight people.
Lola’s parents are gay, but they aren’t “gay parents.” They’re parents. They’re loving, forgiving, protective, stern, and wonderful. And they just happen to be gay. It’s awesome that their sexuality is not an issue for anyone in the story, and that it’s clearly not supposed to be considered an issue for the reader, either.
Yep, the romance is pretty adorable.
And Other Conflicts, Too!
I’ve already mentioned the identity issue, but that’s not the only conflict Lola’s confronted with. In fact, the story’s full of conflicts that affect every aspect of Lola’s life (italics to emphasize how pleased this makes me): family issues, peer issues, friend issues, and (of course) romantic and identity issues, all competing for Lola’s attention simultaneously–and resulting in a much fuller and more realistic novel.
Two thumbs up.
In short: Lola is a fun, easy read, with good conflict, good writing, and some good characters. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, I’d definitely recommend picking it up.