The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, Ruby Oliver) by E. Lockhart.
Lockhart's blog is here.
The Plot: Following a panic attack, Ruby's parents send her to a therapist. The therapist asks Ruby to write a "boyfriend list". Which Ruby does ... but she throws the rough draft away. In the school trash. Did I mention the reason this 15 year old is having panic attacks? It's because of her boyfriend, Jackson. Or should I say exboyfriend. And her friends Kim, Cricket, and Nora. Or should I say her exfriends. And the reason why her friends won't even talk to her? Well, let's just say it has to do with Ruby. And a boy. Maybe Jackson. Maybe not. But now she's the school leper. And she's being called the school slut. (Hint: boyfriend list, draft, school trash.... I think you've put the pieces together.)
The Good: This is a funny "chick lit" type of book; and I hesitate to use that term, because its been so bandied about and misused. Let me say this: chick lit can be good and funny and entertaining and serious. And TBL is all of these.
Ruby tells her story, flashing back to when she and her friends were best friends; to the boys she has known, starting with kindergarten; and to the present, when everything just kind of blew up on her. Ruby is funny and honest, even if she isn't always very self aware.
In honor of Ruby's lists, here is my list of why I love this book and why I am adding it to my best books of 2005 list:
- They boys could easily have been all good or all bad. Instead, they are human and conflicted; they do some things which are sweet. And some things that make you want to shake them.
- While I am totally on Ruby's side about what happened with Ruby, Jackson, and Kim, and think her friends were totally wrong to stop talking to her, I can kind of see Kim's side.
- Ruby is very funny as the narrator, but the reader can see how Ruby's and Jackson's relationship had some issues. And I can't help but think those issues had to be pretty bloody obvious to everyone but Ruby, if Cricket and Nora took Kim's side.
- Ruby's a bit shallow and a bit immature. But, hello, she's 15. One of my pet peeves in books: 15 year olds who are more mature than most 30 somethings I know. Ruby is a real teen. She thinks about herself, is oblivious to other's feelings. I love her; I think she'd be frustrating to be around; I think she's real.
- Ruby's parents are interesting and also real. I especially liked how at the beginning, they were a bit one dimensional, because that is how Ruby presented them; but as the book went on, and Ruby saw their depth, we did, too.
- Have I mentioned how funny this is?
- Funny, but not lightweight. There are serious issues here. And they are treated seriously.
- A wonderful portrayal of girls and friendships, and even though there are conflicts, these girls are not the flat uber bitca's that usually appear in "girl" books. There is love, conflict, bonding, arguing, making up. Even a little shopping.
- It's boy obsessed and boy centric -- because hello, did I mention? 15 year old girls. But its also about finding one's voice; thinking for oneself; and speaking up.
- Anyone reading this book is tempted to put together their own "boyfriend list." Which I did. But no way am I sharing it.