I’ve mentioned that I really don’t like to compare sophomore attempts in regards to an author’s first book, especially if I really loved the debut. So, while I was really excited for this book, having read it, I’m not exactly enamored of it.The big problem I have is the lack of plot. Yes, it’s young-adult rom-com, but the set-up and progression don’t really do much for me. Lola spends a good chunk of the first third of the book freaking out that “OMG THE BELLS ARE BACK” and going on about how horrible Calliope and Cricket’s betrayal of her was, and when we finally get the flashback, it’s because of some contrived drama involving Lola not being invited to a birthday party. I can kind of see why Lola would be distressed over this, but to the point where her family and friends try to completely shun the Bell family is a little too over-the-top for my tastes. The romance between her and Cricket feels like it’s there for plot purposes only; there’s a good chemistry between them, but it felt more like they would have been better off as friends rather than romantic partners. There’s also a lot of contrived drama with Lola and her boyfriend Max, which is similarly plot-convenient. However, I was interested in the subplot involving Lola’s birth mother, Norah, and her unaccepted drop into Lola’s life; unfortunately, it’s never as fully as developed as the whole “I am in love with Cricket Bell, but I should never let him know!” Lola’s a fun character, but again, it feels like she needs more development. Perkins uses Lola’s costume design and aspirations as a metaphor for not understanding her “real” self, but it feels more like an easy gimmick instead of serving a larger purpose. She does feel like an actual teenager at times, with the contrived Bell drama and running off with her older boyfriend and insisting that she’s mature, and I did like that. But she doesn’t feel like a fully-rounded character. (Also, the various descriptions of her different outfits and costumes fluctuate between “Oh, that sounds cute” and running into Claudia Kishi territory—sounds cool on page, but when you visualize it, is actually ridiculous. Same with a lot of Cricket’s outfits.) I liked Cricket a lot better, as he feels like a well-rounded character. He does run into the too-perfect territory at times—he cares about his family! He comes home every weekend to see Lola! He’s quirky!—but I generally enjoyed him and his interactions with Lola.Unfortunately, almost all of the side characters get very little characterization. I liked Lola’s dads, Nathan and Andy; they felt like actual parents who are concerned for Lola’s well-being, and also have to deal with her similarly unreliable mother. Nathan gets a bit more characterization than Andy does, but I felt like they had a genuine parental relationship with Lola. (My only nitpick is that we had to be reminded that LOLA HAS TWO GAY DADDIES and how GAY they are. Okay, look, I got it the moment when they’re both identified as men, you don’t need to remind me every time they show up.) I really wanted to see more of Norah, specifically her more erratic nature and how she’s trying to stay sober and how that effects Lola. On the other hand, Lola’s supposed best friend Lindsay barely gets any characterization beyond “she likes mysteries and is quiet.” That’s all. Nothing more to her. Calliope’s worse, because while we do see her being petty and vindictive, we only hear about her softer side through other characters, which again, I wanted to see more of. Also, a lot of the promo for this book played up the fact it’s a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, but I could have really done without Anna and Etienne popping up as side characters—if only because it could have worked without them and they don’t play a huge role in it. It’s an okay book. There’s really not much to write about it, but at the same time, there’s a lot that could have definitely been improved. There’s some good ideas, there’s a lot of undeveloped ones, and it doesn’t grab me like Anna did.