E. Lockhart – The Boyfriend List
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.
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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