This is going to seem like an odd way to start a review. Usually, I begin with why I chose the book, but at the moment I am struck by all the reasons I would not normally have chosen this book though I obviously did choose it, read it and not only that I liked it.
I do want to quickly point out that, though this book is not part of a series, it does have crossover characters from ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ in which there are small references made back to that story so even though I didn’t it probably should have been read first.
Bet you’re wondering what would turn me off such a book. Well first of all, it’s Young Adult Contemporary Romance and that’s not a regular go-to genre for me. However, I would venture to say that a goodly portion of the book might fall into General Fiction because it is about the struggles of a high school age girl working out who she is and learning to be comfortable in her own skin. The next thing was that the before mentioned confused heroine was also confused about two guys she loves and in the process flits back and forth not able to make up her mind. And finally, this girl’s life is just full angst and in the confusion, she looses her compass and starts ignoring those who offer sound advice and lashing out at those who truly love and support her.
Now if you were paying attention, you’ll notice I said words like ‘not normally choose’ and ‘would turn me off’. That’s right it didn’t manage to do that. I actually liked it and saw it through to the end with a fisted double hand pump into the air when a couple of things resolved and Lola came into her own.
Seventeen year old Lola’s life seems to be going along swimmingly. She is a very avant guarde girl who takes fashion and pushes it past fad-ish into costume dressing. Each day an original outfit that is eye popping bright and over the top is worn to wow anyone she comes in contact with. She plans to go to the school winter dance dressed as Marie Antoinette- wig, undergarments and all. She has good friends, loving parents, a hot rocker guy, Max, for a boyfriend who doesn’t meet with parental approval and she dreams on the day when she can move with her boyfriend to LA where he’ll rock on and she’ll pursue designer school.
But one bright sunny day, none of this matters because she observes the moving trucks pull up to the lavender Victorian house next door which has sat vacant or filled with temporary leasers for the last two years. She knows what that means- their back. The twins Calliope and Cricket have returned. The two people who are responsible for causing her acute hurt and pain two years previous have returned with their family to take up life as her neighbors again. Calliope is a world class amateur figure skating champion and her twin is a quiet science geek who now will only be home on weekends from university. Calliope remains hostile just as she was two years before, but Cricket is an enigma. He has changed and wants a do-over of sorts. He’s willing to take things slow and take whatever she will give him. He is honest about his feelings and what he wants. Lola recognizes the difference between Cricket’s honesty and her own lack of honesty when dealing everyone in her life.
The return of Cricket sets off a series of changes for her it seems even if he was not directly responsible for most of it. First, she has confusing feelings about Cricket, then things get complicated with her boyfriend when her lies and the confusion it causes builds walls for them, then her mom turns up with more issues and needs than ever, and finally Lola starts to go through a personally identity crisis of sorts- she doesn’t know who she is any more and doesn’t like who she seems to be becoming. It all comes crashing down around her shoulders, but it is at this point that Lola has a choice: draw strength from those who love her and take a step back to get an honest look at herself and her recent decisions or cling to what she knows just because it is what she knows while remaining mired in denial and self-pity.
The story revolves around the main character Lola and is told first person point of view from her perspective. Lola is such a complex character that I find myself unable to say just a few short lines and move on. Lola’s life is made up of equal parts components that are universally relate-able to anyone who has lived through the ages of thirteen to eighteen years of age and components that are so far from my point of reference that I could only shake my head as her background was revealed. Her life should have been one unstable mess and I’m not referring to the fact that she has two dads. Actually, that was one of her strongest areas of stability along with her grounded set of friends. The girl isn’t just adopted; her parents were two homeless peeps that suffer from more than one addiction and mental health issue. And both are still periodically in her life. Lola’s method to combat the feelings of inferiority and acceptance is to hide behind her outrageous costumes so the real Lola cannot be rejected because the real Lola cannot be seen. It is almost a litmus test to determine the true character of the people around her. Those who really love and support her accept the vibrant, quirky Lola whether she is in costume or not.
I always have to comment when an author of a YA does a good job of making the parents more than absentee background figures or the stupid people for which the ‘brilliant’ young teenager must almost be the adult. Lola’s dads were very present and they were firm, but loving.
Cricket was a fun character. I loved it whenever he opened his mouth. He is so into Lola that he has trouble forming complete sentences. He is just so refreshingly honest and a warm strong support whether it is within his family or with his friends. His love was the unselfish kind that just wanted the best for Lola as he sat on the sidelines patiently waiting and hoping that she would finally see him beyond the glamour and cool bad-boy image of her rocker boyfriend.
This is not a light-hearted coming of age read, but one that has the feel of authenticity as it runs the gamut of experiences and feelings in a teen’s life. I do not recommend this for younger teens as there is language and the unhealthy relationship that Lola has with Max who is older and into more adult things. But for older teens and adults, this would appeal to those who enjoy reading of a girl come into her own and find something good with the boy next door.