Important note: This is the second book in the Anna and French Kiss trilogy. Do not make my mistake and read things out of order. There are no spoilers ahead, so keep reading. I recently finished Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, and it pretty much changed my life. It is everything a young adult novel should be.
I am not exaggerating. It is that good.
It was one of those novels that is so good that you don't want to put it down, but you force yourself to because you don't want it to end quite yet.
It is the kind of book that makes you giddy. Kind of like falling in love.
Which I did.
What made this book all sorts of amazing?
1. The female protagonist has interests other than boys (or vampires).
She wants to be a costume designer. Which is pretty much the best thing ever. She wears a new costume EVERY DAY. Unlike so many cartoon characters we know of (I am looking at you Fred Flinstone. At least accessorize if you are going to wear the same thing all the time).
2. Stephanie Perkins does amazing things with details.
One character, Cricket, writes on his hand. This is a dumb thing that teenagers do (I mean, it washes off so easily), but Stephanie Perkins uses this for more than verisimilitude. It serves as a major plot point later on in the book, and it is also a fun way of showing the character's mood and thoughts.
3. You can see how the protagonist is attracted to both men.
Yes, there is a love triangle, but you can genuinely see how Lola is attracted to both of them. It is not one of those terrible triangles where there is clearly a "bad boy" and a "good boy." Both guys clearly care about her and each has his strengths. Cricket makes really awesome inventions. Max has a Maurice Sendak tattoo. And makes wonderful music references which leads me to...
4. Music references. Everywhere.
The music references in this book are off the chain. Whether it is Max singing "Lola" by the Kinks or the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" being played in a key scene, the music fits the narrative perfectly. I kind of want to be best friends with Stephanie Perkins so we can listen to cool music together.
5. It is set in San Francisco.
Okay, I am a bit biased.It is one of my favorite cities in the world. But the setting was perfect for the book. The characters are shaped by the city, and it is almost its own character.