Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the negihborhood. 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 going to lie, this book made me cry more times than I can remember, but not because it’s a sad book by any means. It’s just that adorable! Though it’s a close call, I think I might actually love this book a teeny bit more than ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. Speaking of, the role that Anna and Etienne play in this book is absolutely perfect. I knew they appeared in this book, but I was concerned that it would be one tiny cameo, just a passing mention of them. It is much more than that, though, and I’m really glad we got to see not only how their relationship has grown but how it’s able to help other people as well. The one small mention of Josh made me laugh, too.
The first thing that struck me about this book is how different it is from ANNA. I was sort of expecting similar narration, similar storyline, or similar issues as the first book in the series, but was happy to see that everything about this book is unique from the first. Well, some of the issues are the same as in ANNA, but they are handled much more in depth and in a slightly different way in this story, which made them feel unique.
The first issue that comes to mind, despite the fact that this story really revolves around the love between Lola and Cricket, is family. My favorite message in this book (and trust me, it’s hard to choose a favorite message) is that your DNA does not define you. I think that’s something a lot of people struggle with, or rather struggle against: Ending up just like their parents. So to have a character overcome that battle and realize that the choice is entirely ours, that who our parents are or want us to be does not dictate the truth of who we are, is very powerful and reassuring.
Something that sort of goes hand in hand with this idea of defining yourself is having the courage and the confidence to remain true to yourself once you discover who you are. Lola and Cricket both have to learn not to let the actions or words of others prevent them from following their passions and living up to their full potential. This is also where their relationship comes into play. They both sort of feed off of each other’s support, encouragement, and love, the opposite of Lola’s relationship with Max.
Stephanie does a wonderful job of portraying both unhealthy and healthy relationships without labeling them as such or making Lola out to be a helpless heroine trapped in a relationship she doesn’t want to be in. I honestly loved Max for the first half of the book because there didn’t seem to be anything wrong in the relationship. But the way that everything played out showed just how important it is to be attuned to actions and words that seem minor or harmless; these can show who a person really is underneath the facade they attempt to keep up.
This book, like ANNA, also brings up the important role communication plays in our interactions with others. There were so many issues and confrontations that could have been avoided if people had been more open and honest with each other rather than hiding behind shyness or embarrassment. Readers are able to see what happens both when things go said and unsaid, and how people handle the situation when things do not go as planned.
The setting plays as much of a role in this book as it did in the first book of the series, so if you love San Francisco or have ever wanted to visit the city, this book will make you feel like you’re there. I’ve never been, but it’s definitely at the top of my list of places to travel to, so it was lovely to be able to feel like I was there with the characters.
If you loved ANNA then I definitely recommend that you read this wonderful addition to the series and fall in love with Cricket the way you did with Etienne. If you haven’t read ANNA, go read that first and then pick up LOLA! It’s got first loves, gay parents, selfish family members, miscommunications, best friends, Anna and Etienne, and enough sweet romantic gestures to make your heart want to burst!
Also, as a former competitive figure skater it was so cool and definitely nostalgic to read about Calliope’s career! I’m excited for ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER to see if there is any update on how her big competition went…..
*Synopsis and cover image are from Amazon.com.