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March 14, 2011

Book 7: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

2011 Books

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Genre: YA
Pages: 229
Grade: 83

15-year-old Ruby Oliver is sent to a shrink after total social meltdown makes her start having panic attacks, and the doctor has her make a list of all the boys she's ever been involved with, or had a crush on, or anything. This list and her conversations with the doctor about each boy form the framing device of the story, and while I liked the idea of the list and its use in the books structure, it drove me nuts that it was called a "boyfriend" list, because most of the boys on it were not "boyfriends" in any sense in which I have ever heard the word used by anyone ever. Honestly, this one issue probably biased me against this book from the start, and is part of why I gave it a solid B but not higher.

My other main issue was that I had a hard time relating to Ruby, especially at first, because of what I've started calling (you know, in my head) the "But doesn't she have a hobby?" problem. She spent so much time thinking about boys, and so little time concentrating on or caring about anything else. I know boys and crushes and social are a huge preoccupation for teens, but the extent of it seemed unrealistic. I mean, sure, when I was that age I had crushes, but I spent far more time reading and playing the violin and yelling at my mother (sorry!) than I did thinking or talking about boys. On the other hand, I did a quick survey of some friends who had read this, and a few said that this was exactly how they thought/acted in high school, so maybe my experiences were atypical.

But enough negativity! Because there were tons of things to like about this book, too! First of all, there were footnotes, and I love me a novel with footnotes, especially funny ones like these. Overall, the tone was both hilarious and touching, and Ruby had a very strong, distinctive voice. While I thought her obsession with boys and social jockeying was a bit much, many of the specific incidents at school and in her social life felt scarily true. Also, Ruby gets bonus points for living on a houseboat, because that was something fun and different to read about. But my favorite thing about the book was the way that Ruby herself was not exactly quite a reliable narrator - both in ways she was aware of and in ways she only realized as the book went on. She thinks she knows what her problems are, and she sort of does, but there are other things going on that she doesn't want to face, and it's fascinating to watch her come to terms with that.

Oh, and all the boys? On the list? Most of them were really not so great - a few were downright awful - but there was at least one dreamy boy toward the end of the list who has real potential. My curiosity about him, as well as my interest in Ruby's ongoing self-actualization, made me go from having a hard time warming up to Ruby to immediately requesting the second book from the library. And it doesn't have "boyfriend" in the title, so my hopes are high!

Posted by Kat at March 14, 2011 07:14 AM
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