I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins without ruining it for everyone who wants to read it. So I’m going to do so by citing a talk I read recently by Brian Eno called A Big Theory of Culture, which I read, in tandem, with this book. I think I can get through the book much easier with referencing someone else’s wording for spoilers than by just blurting it out on my own. Plus I am now incapable of separating the two in my brainpan.“One of the things that artists do is invent metaphors, break up metaphors, challenge them, pull them apart, put them together in new order and so on. One of the things art does also is to remind you constantly of this process that you’re most of the time engaged in – the process of metaphor-making.”
Lola lives with two gay men and hates who she is. Or, rather, where she comes from. Her biological parents were both homeless drug addicts and Lola has become obsessed with costume as a result. She constantly changes up her appearance. At 17 Lola has a 22-year-old boyfriend, Max, who reads meters and sings in a punk band… and her Fathers hate him. She also has an old grudge against her on-again/off-again neighbours, the Bells, particularly the twins Calliope and Cricket. Lola used to be in love with Cricket, but when something happened between the two of them Lola turned away and viewed him with bitter resentment… and now the Bells are back.
Cricket has always been scientifically minded. Lola is creative, the polar opposite. Part of why Eno’s essay/talk appeals to me much is his suggestion that these two personalities work because they are opposites. Artistic personalities are carefree and inventive, less worried about control and just live in the moment of making metaphors. Scientifically minded folks are all about process, solving minutiae, getting through steps to prove that chaos can be controlled… both are more alike than many people realize.
“I wrote to Richard Dawkins recently who had just given The Richard Dimbleby Lecture on BBC1 in which he said that England always celebrates the arts, and doesn’t celebrate the sciences. I said I felt exactly the reverse was true, that people had a very poor understanding of the arts, and the reason they could happily waffle on about it was because their waffle was unchallengeable. There’s such a poor conversation about it that you can say whatever crap you want to, and nobody’s going to call you on it. The other thing is that everybody recognizes the power of science. We recognize the power of cloning technologies, of nuclear weapons and so on. Everybody knows that science is powerful and could be dangerous, therefore there’s a whole lot of criticism on that basis. What people don’t realize is that culture is powerful and could be dangerous too. As long as culture is talked about as though it’s a kind of nice little add-on to make things look a bit better in this sort of brutal life we all lead, as long as it’s just seen as the icing on the cake, then people won’t realize that it’s the medium in which we’re immersed, and which is forming us, which is making us what we are and what we think.”
Lola is chaos and Cricket is rationally trying to harness her, meanwhile completely understanding her. Cricket is also way more dangerous than he first appears. He represents the unavoidable constant presence of CHANGE in Lola’s life, and she fears that just as much as she fears herself. Lola cannot allow herself to make that mistake again. Cricket, however, is constantly at the whim of familial obligations. His sister, more or less, uses him for a constant support staff in her figure skating career. It seems that level headed Cricket cannot communicate his own needs and desires which involve the Girl next door – Lola. No one quite understands the smouldering power of him though. Both are uncelebrated in their lives and misunderstood, but for different reasons. It really doesn’t matter at all, since both understand one another.
This book appeals to me also because of the similarities/parallels to my own love life. In my previous school life I studied fine arts, figure drawing, printmaking, and painting. I am creatively minded. My beloved is a biologist. He has his degree in Entomology and spends his days looking at tiny insects under microscopes. He lives by the language of order and logic… and Stephanie Perkins named her character Cricket.
Whoa. Seriously… whoa.
There. Enough spoilers left out by going on about, essentially nothing. Squee, I did my job well.
I enjoyed this book, probably enjoyed it more than Anna and the French Kiss, if the truth be told. This book seems more… grown up, perhaps? Though Lola is definitely immature at times. There are definitely more social issues discussed in this book. Lola also has her own voice, which is something I was very worried about going into it. When I read Anna I fell in love with her and with Etienne… and with Paris. They all had their own unique voices (though my brain automatically supplied Stephanie Perkins image from her author photos as Anna’s physical counterpoint). I was worried Lola’s would not differ from Anna at all. I’m pleased to say that not only did they differ, but they evolved. I felt, in no way, that Perkins was rehashing the story that we loved from the first book. Major points.
I will be reading Isla and the Happily Ever After when it releases in 2012. I pretty much can’t wait, and I NEVER read strict romances. Never. You folks are in for a treat in September.
5 out of 5 stars.
*Lola and the Boy Next Door releases September 29th, 2011.
*All quotes are attributed to A Big Theory of Culture by Brian Eno. I did NOT write them, nor do I claim to.
– Follow the Reader –