Release Date: September 19th (US), October 3rd (AU)
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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'm not the kind of girl who is even remotely interested in fashion, yet despite the fact that I really had no idea who some of Lola's inspirations were, I loved her outrageous styles and discovering what new costume she would greet the world with today. She loves to be different and experiment. She's not trying to set a trend, she's making statements. Who she is and what she believes in. Her personality and mood shine through what she wears. She's such an likable, eccentric, bold character and yet she's still susceptible to all that confusion and uncertainty and vulnerability that comes along with being a teenager and that's what helps makes her so, so endearing.
And then we have our swoony male lead. Holy Hell, Cricket Bell. He is so ADORABLE. He talks fast and stumbles over his words when he's nervous and he's tall and wears jeans too small and writes mystery words on his hand and oh my gosh, I love everything about that beautiful geeky boy! He's a genius inventor - put anything in front of him and he'll no doubt turn it into some hugely complicated contraption that performs a simple task. Every single thing about him is just so goddamn cute. He's very open about his feelings for Lola early on, but he doesn't push himself on her. He acknowledges the fact that she has a boyfriend (though certainly doesn't love the idea). He still wants to be apart of her life, but there is no denying every single moment they share together is intensified tenfold with that yearning for something more.
You can see how much care and thought that goes into making these personalities shine. They're quirky and funny and flawed, made all the more perfect because of their imperfections. Lola's two dads are possibly my favourite set of parents in YA. The love and support and affection is so clear and abundant, yet they still set fair rules and boundaries. It felt so realistic and really something we don't see an awful lot of in YA these days. Plus they're super funny and adorable. Adorable really is the best word to sum up so much of this novel.
Stephanie's novels are a whole new level of sexy. They aren't full of over-eager hands and tongues - it's the fact that they're NOT, that turns readers a nasty shade of violet from holding their breath so long in anticipation. It's the sexual tension and build-up to that long-awaited kiss you know won't arrive until the very end, that has you burying your face in the book every five minutes to giggle happily, your cheeks cracking open from grinning too hard.
While I admit Anna and the French Kiss is still my favourite (Blame Paris. And that Thanksgiving scene), Lola delivers everything fans could wish for. You can't really compare them though, because they are both so AMAZING and different in such wonderful ways. Lola and the Boy Next Door is a beautiful novel that will set your heart aflutter even long after you finish reading. Stephanie proves that a little thing called love exists and it's right here, bundled up in 338 pages of sweet, smart, sexy and sensual. You'll laugh, you'll smile, you'll squee, you'll ache and you'll close this book feeling enlightened, inspired and so gleefully happy.
Also: Etienne St. Clair and Cricket Bell in the same book? Sharing the same scenes? Yes, heaven really does exist.
5/5 Golden Apples!