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E. Lockhart – The Boyfriend List

April 25, 2011

54. The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs, and Me, Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart (2005)
Ruby Oliver, Book 1

Length: 234 pages
Genre: Contemporary YA

Started / Finished: 09 April 2011

Where did it come from? Bought at Borders.
Why do I have it? I really liked The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, so when I saw a copy of another of Lockhart’s books at the Borders closing, of course I picked it up.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 09 December 2010.

How many boys does
it take before Ruby finds
what’s most important?

Summary: Ruby Oliver’s had a rough few weeks. Her boyfriend, Jackson, dumped her out of the blue; she got into a huge fight with her best friend Kim, which has resulted in all of their other friends not speaking to her; everyone in their tiny Seattle high school thinks that Ruby’s a slut – which is completely untrue; and she’s started having panic attacks. Her parents send her right off to a shrink, which Ruby is so not psyched about – what kind of fifteen-year-old needs a shrink, anyways? Dr. Z’s first assignment for Ruby is to make a list of all of the important boys in her life, so that they can start at the beginning and figure out how things got to be the way they are.

Review: It seems like most of the YA novels I read, contemporary or otherwise, have a love story front and center, even if they’re nominally not romances. So it was refreshing to read a book that didn’t really have a love story – or, rather, had a lot of love stories, was made up of mostly love stories, but that focused on their aftermaths rather than their beginnings. Reading about someone else’s therapy sessions doesn’t sound like it should be particularly entertaining, and certainly not funny, but in Lockhart’s hands, Ruby’s telling of her own life (and love) story becomes the fodder for some cringe-worthy yet comic moments. Lockhart treats the subject of panic attacks, and therapy, and the people involved with a good deal of respect, and despite Ruby’s early antagonism towards her shrink, without judging.

I always love when YA novels get the feeling of high school right, and The Boyfriend List definitely does. I went to a school that was about as insular as Ruby’s, and I recognized a lot of the friendship and boy drama and cliquishness and general highschoolish behavior. Where Ruby’s friends have The Boy Book, and Ruby’s got her Boyfriend List, we had the Kissing Web and the Dot List of Crushable Boys (one of our guy friends found out that he only had five dots out of a possible six, and spent months actively campaigning for that last dot.) We thankfully managed to keep the inter-friend squabbling over boys to a minimum, but I still recognized a lot of the dynamics in Ruby’s social circle.

I was pleasantly surprised by Ruby herself. For most of the book, she’s the kind of character that normally pisses me off: completely passive, not doing anything to make things better, and then complain-y about how terrible things are in her life. But strangely enough, I didn’t really mind it in Ruby’s case, and eventually I couldn’t help but cheer for her… perhaps because she’s at least working to change her behavior. I also really liked her narrative voice, and the fact that there were footnotes was an excellent bonus. The ending was satisfying without being overly neat and wrapped up, and I appreciated that Lockhart doesn’t allow her characters an easy-out; everything felt well-earned. Overall, while I didn’t always find this book completely emotionally absorbing, it was definitely consistently entertaining, and well worth the read. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I’d recommend The Boyfriend List for fans of contemporary YA who are looking for a fun read that’s a little more than a standard girl-meets-boy love story.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Books Lists Life, Fluttering Butterflies, Good Books and Good Wine
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Before anyone reading this thinks to call me a slut – or even just imagines I’m incredibly popular – let me point out that this list includes absolutely every single boy I have ever had the slightest little any-kind-of-anything with.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2011 7:21 am

    I have all of lockhart’s books on my shelf but only read one – which I *highly* suggest. Fly on the Wall. (I believe. Or close to it?) Lockhart plays around with Kafka’s Metamorphosis concept. It was truly a fun read.

    • April 26, 2011 11:37 am

      christina – Hmm, I haven’t heard of that one, but it sounds really interesting! I also think there are at least two sequels to this book, which I’d definitely be interested in reading.

      If you’re looking for one to pull off your shelf first, I liked this one, but I thought The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was just fantastic.

  2. April 25, 2011 3:51 pm

    I think getting high school right is difficult to do, but it’s magical when it’s done. I’m adding this to my wish list.

    • April 26, 2011 11:40 am

      Kathy – I hope you like it! I also highly recommend John Green on the “getting high school right” front.

  3. April 25, 2011 4:09 pm

    I think I will start with the Frankie book, but good to know that this one isn’t too bad, either.

  4. April 26, 2011 10:40 am

    I haven’t seen this one before, but I love the cover, and your recommendation definitely makes me want to read the book.

    • April 26, 2011 11:43 am

      Alyce – Isn’t the cover awesome? There are some other versions I don’t like nearly as much, but the ceramic frog is both 1) relevant to the plot, and 2) adorable. Hope you enjoy it!

  5. April 26, 2011 7:37 pm

    Whenever I read one of these high school books, I feel like I did high school all wrong. Or else went to a really strange high school? I just never had anything like books of this sort describe.

    • April 28, 2011 8:45 am

      Jenny – I went to a strange high school too, so a lot of the “normal” high school stuff doesn’t apply to me either. But my high school was pretty small, and was similarly insulated from the wider world the way Ruby’s seems to be, so I definitely recognized the sense of trying to date within a very limited pool, and the way that the pool of acceptable people (i.e. not your friends’ exes) gets smaller and smaller as high school goes.


  1. Book Review: “The Boyfriend List” | The Cheap Reader

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