“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
-J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Brian Jacques. Jane Austen. J.R.R. Tolkein. Roald Dahl. C.S. Lewis. Alistair MacLean. Louis L’Amour. Rainbow Rowell.
That’s my short list of authors who gave me that jolt of pure, unadulterated joy that obliterates the rest of the world, makes you feel you’ve found a spiritual/mental soulmate, and makes you want to track them down and knock down their door or call them up and have long conversations about everything and nothing and find out their opinion about the world and politics in that one corner of the world and how they like their tea.
Rainbow Rowell books always have the best covers.
Lola and the Boy Next Door is the second book in Stephanie Perkin’s loosely-linked young adult trilogy (Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After)… it was good stuff, y’all. In fact, dare I say I liked it much better than Anna and the French Kiss? Lola is significantly more grounded than Anna, not emotionally, but just as far as personality and life situation – I had trouble fully identifying with both Anna and Etienne in French Kiss because their lives were so thoroughly privileged. Yes, they both had family troubles which made them more sympathetic, but I’ve never been a drop-dead gorgeous teenager who gets to attend boarding school in France, and I suspect most of the rest of us haven’t either. It was all just a little too much, a little too surreal and fairy-tale-like.
All of which is to say – Lola is much more identifiable – her family’s middle-class, she works a very average job at a movie theater, she’s pretty but not absolutely stunning, and she lives in San Francisco. (Side note: San Francisco as a setting was a delight, as I visit often and love that city. It’s under-utilized as a setting for American books).
Lola Nolan lives with her parents (two married men) in the Castro district in San Francisco, in a delightful if small house passed down by her grandmother. She has a smart, driven best friend and a steady boyfriend in the form of tattooed punk-rocker Max. Life for her is pretty good…until some old neighbors move back in and her life turns upside down. Calliope Bell was Lola’s best friend until she started becoming a star ice skater and dropped Lola for not being cool enough. Calliope’s twin brother Cricket, meanwhile, the soft-spoken, awkward foil to his sister’s shining light, was Lola’s first love. Their relationship ended abruptly (and, traumatically for Lola) almost before it began however, and Lola hasn’t seen either of the Bell twins for years.