I have a confession to make.
I maybekindasorta cheated on our Book Club.
…but damn it was one hell of a mistake.
Because Stephanie Perkins writes one hell of a love story. I laughed aloud. My heart broke. I bit my nails. And my stomach swooped in all the right places. I’m pretty sure there was not a single moment of potential stomach-flutter that was not reciprocated by my stomach in kind. It was that kind of love story.
I recently watched Friends with Benefits, a romcom that came out a few months ago that was supposed to be modern, unconventional, and fully cognizant of the stereotypes. So when it started out hip and sassy and degenerated into (spoiler alert) a previously emotionally-unavailable man making a grand romantic gesture to the vulnerable-but-still-strong female, I was thoroughly bummed. Why does it always have to end that way (and always in the streets of New York City)? Wasn’t this supposed to be modern and unconventional? Maybe unconventional doesn’t sell quite the same way as every-other-romantic-comedy-in-the-history-of-the-world, but surely they could at least pretend, right?
Lola and the Boy Next Door doesn’t have to pretend. It’s very much a romantic story, but it’s natural. Even if it does hit one of the Major YA Romantic Gestures, it’s not Prom for Prom’s sake, because it’s Prom. (Also there’s no prom.) Like Anna and the French Kiss and The Sky is Everywhere, the heroine’s relationships with other characters are never diminished. Even if it’s clear that, yes, the Designated Romantic Lead is really so much more swoonworthy, Lola is allowed to figure it out on her own time, with all of her conflicting emotions equally valid and confusing.
She works it out, like every other romantic comedy, but unlike every other romantic comedy, Stephanie Perkins doesn’t patronize. What sweeps Lola off her feet wouldn’t necessarily sweep me off mine, or you off yours, or Anna or Lennie off theirs. It’s unique, like Lola herself, and generic formulas won’t work. And that’s why this story shines. If it borrows conventions, it’s approached from an entirely different angle—determined by what Lola and Cricket both need and are capable of, not what the audience expects.
I have a major crush on this book. I already want to read it again (and Anna) and loan it to everyone I know. I googled it. I’m even infatuated with the cover. Her wig, the lavender and lime houses in the background, her costume jewelry, his pinstripes, the window, his rubber bands, and the star on his hand (the star!). It’s perfect. Plus I just love the expression on her face.
When is the next one coming out?
P.S. All joking aside, I am sorry I screwed up the order. I’ll read Gentlemen and Players next week while you enjoy Lola and we’ll be back on track. Also, now that we’ve had a few people mention that they want to read alongside us, maybe we should make some kind of “next up” announcement?