Friday, 13 May 2011

Review: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

 The Boyfriend List was a homework assignment for my mental health. Doctor Z, my shrink, told me to write down all the boyfriends, kind-of boyfriends, almost-boyfriends, rumoured boyfriends and wished-he-were boyfriends I've ever had. Plus, she recommended I take up knitting. 

 In the same ten days I: lost my boyfriend (boy #13); lost my best friend; lost all my other friends; learned gory details about my now-ex boyfriend's sexual adventures; did something shockingly advanced with boy #15; did something suspicious with boy #10; had an argument with boy #14; drank my first beer; got caught by my mom; lost a lacrosse game; failed a maths test; became a leper and became a famous slut. Enough to give anyone panic attacks, right? I was so overwhelmed by the horror of the whole debacle that I had to skip school for a day to read mystery novels, cry and eat spearmint jelly candies.

My review:

It seems like through all my YA reading, I have, for some reason, been avoiding some of the most-loved series heroines of the genre. I only recently met Jessica Darling and Georgia Nicolson’s still waiting for me to say hi. However, I am now fresh from my first encounter with Ruby Oliver, which has given me some insight into why I might have put it off for so long - I think I knew, subconsciously, that as soon as I read these series I would fall for these girls completely. That has been the case with Ruby and now I smile when she smiles, hurt when she hurts and when two-faced beyotches are mean to her, I want to insert myself into the narrative as a new teacher who joins their school and dishes out corporal punishment.

E. Lockhart has created a wonderful heroine in Ruby. You instantly feel for her; she’s just too adorable for you not to. I can’t express how much I love that she wears glasses. It seems like such a little thing, but when you’re a teen girl and you wear glasses, it means so much to see someone wearing glasses and being regarded as attractive and popular and not some nerdy outcast.

Saying that, The Boyfriend List does introduce us to a Ruby that is friendless and alone, however, it’s a recent and temporary predicament, brought on by the two-faced beyotches I mentioned before (and OK, maybe some of Ruby’s own bad decisions. Two of those bad decisions were her choice of friends and boyfriend, though). I also was really glad about how positively seeing a therapist was represented in this book. I love Ruby’s relationship with Doctor Z and I hope the following books continue it.

As Ruby recounts her crushing/flirting/dating history to Doctor Z, some may feel that this novel and its heroine are too boy-fixated, but I think it’s clear that every ‘boy story’ is really a story about Ruby’s friendships and her family and Ruby herself. How things stand for Ruby at the end of the novel also conveys the message that boys are not the be-all and end-all. Another author might have felt the need to pair Ruby off, but although there are certainly plenty of cute options in The Boyfriend List, when all is said and done, they’re just not the most important thing.

Lockhart’s non-linear way of telling this story makes it a bit more interesting, although I confess it confused me at times. So did all the many boys and I sometimes had to skip back to pages and remind myself who was who. I was torn on Ruby’s habit of giving constant footnotes to the main text – they were funny and it’s a cute gimmick, but they are so frequent and I didn’t always like being pulled out of the main narrative.

But overall, I really liked spending time with Ruby and am looking forward to our next meeting. I might even let our time together nudge me faster into introducing myself to some of her peers.

Rating: 4 stars

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