Lola and the Boy Next Door, was a stand-alone and it was. I did notice a character named Anna and saw the France connection, so I figured some of the back-story out in snippets. I don't think it will be a problem to read them out of order.
Although it is a standard formula - girl falls for boy next door - Stephanie Perkins did create interesting characters and a slightly heart-tugging story. Lola is quite a flamboyant teen, with her gay dads and her love of dressing in costume. Perhaps it was a bit over-the-top at times, because I'm guessing a daughter in that situation would try to deflect attention away from herself rather than constantly draw more eyes in. Max is the typical older boyfriend causing the parents concern. Her involvement with him is already sexual, which felt like an attempt to paint with a realistic brush for teens today, but also felt a bit unnecessary and dissatisfying to me (especially since Lola doesn't really have strong reasons for her affections for this older guy and isn't honest with him or anybody else for that matter). Cricket, on the other hand, is entirely charming. He is a well-dressed, tender, thoughtful young man who obviously cares deeply for Lola, despite a past heartbreak based on a misunderstanding. Add in the mix, Cricket's catty twin, Calliope (a tricky name to get behind), whose skating career takes all of the attention off her brilliant brother, and you've got a recipe for the tension so necessary in a good story.
The plot was quite predictable. After lengthy wavering, Lola comes to her senses and recognizes her true feelings for the boy next door. He comes through in a pinch and takes her to the winter formal, where she makes a grand entrance in her hand-made Marie Antoinette costume (worn with buckled platform combat boots???). The writing was smooth and the dialogue rang true (without resorting to the distraction of constant curses - thankfully - as so many other authors do in attempting to provide realistic teen fiction). It was a very readable book. Perhaps not my favorite YA read this year, but it should provide for interesting discussion. After looking over several Amazon reviews, it seems many readers prefer her first book over this second one. I'll have to put that on my to-read list.