A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this romantic novel is a companion to author Stephanie Perkins' critically acclaimed first novel, Anna and the French Kiss. There are a few mature themes -- dating an older guy, dealing with a substance-abusing birth mother, handling a new romantic relationship -- and some repeated references to sex, as well. Although a couple of mentioned sexual encounters aren't graphic, the descriptions of desire and a few heated make-out sessions are vividly detailed. There's the odd bit of salty language, but nothing that would make a teenager bat an eye. Overall, this is a love story about two self-aware misfits who love each other exactly as they are -- costumes, quirks, and all.
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What's the story?
Lola Nolan isn't like most other 17-year-old girls. An aspiring costume designer, she wears over-the-top ensembles every day and socializes mostly with her best friend, Lindsey, and her much-older rocker boyfriend, Max -- of whom her two dads don't especially approve. But life gets a lot wackier for Lola when her San Francisco neighbors move back in after a two-year absence, marking the return of Cricket Bell, the boy who broke her heart at age 15. Cricket, a nerdy but adorable inventor, instantly wants back into Lola's life, but she's certain her heart belongs to Max. As she reacquaints herself with the \"boy next door,\" Lola begins to wonder if he's more than her first crush and more like the love of her life.
Is it any good?
After falling in love with Anna and St. Clair's adventures in Paris in Anna and the French Kiss, fans of breakout novelist Perkins will adore Lola and her swoon-worthy neighbor Cricket's love story. Once again Perkins uses the setting -- in this case, San Francisco -- as a central character in the book. And unlike Anna, whose story was set in a boarding school, Lola has a fantastic homelife with two doting dads and a feisty dog cleverly named "Heavens to Betsy." Lola is self-possessed and quirky -- a Lady Gaga-lite who creates fabulous costumes as an extension of her personality. She's beautiful, funny, and comfortable in her skin, so it's hard to resist Lola's charms as a protagonist.
But despite Lola's love of presentation, she's nakedly vulnerable when it comes to Cricket. His re-emergence in her life makes her rethink whether her relationship with Max, the 22-year-old punk star, is the Real Thing or a first love that can't go the distance. As Cricket and Lola reconnect -- adorably via their facing second-story windows -- readers will undeniably root for the impossibly tall inventor to win Lola's heart. As an added bonus, Lola works at a movie theater with Anna and the ever-present St. Clair, making it clear that their intercontinental love story is of the forever variety. With its vivid descriptions of how friendship blooms into love, this is a winning romance with sparkly language and a lot of heart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the book's depiction of teenage relationships. Which relationship seems healthier -- Lola and Max's or Lola and Cricket's? How do they compare? Is it odd in a romance for the girl to be more experienced than the guy?
How is Lola's circle of family and friends a good role model for diversity? Does Lola's penchant for dressing in costumes and wigs make her relatable? What are some other books featuring quirky, unique protagonists?
For those who read Anna and the French Kiss, did you like the crossover appearances by Anna and St. Clair? Which story do you prefer? How does the author use a city as another character in each of her books?
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