Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart

Title: Real Live Boyfriends
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: December 28th, 2010
Pages: 222 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Birthday gift.

Ruby Oliver is a senior in high school, and she's in love.
Or it would be love, if Noel, her real live boyfriend, would call her back.
But Noel has turned into a pod-robot lobotomy patient, and Ruby can't figure out why.

Not only is her romantic life in shambles:
Her dad is eating nothing but Cheetos,
Her mother's got a piglet head in the refrigerator,
Hutch has gone to Paris to play baguette air guitar,
Gideon shows up shirtless,
And the pygmy goat Robespierre is no help whatsoever.

Will Ruby ever control her panic attacks?
Will she ever understand boys?
Will she ever stop making lists?
(No to that last one.)

In the fourth hilarious episode of Ruby Oliver's high school career, the neurotic, hyperverbal heroine of The Boyfriend List and its companions interviews her friends for a documentary on love and popularity. While doing so, she turns up some uncomfortable truths--and searches for a way to get back what she had with Noel.

Roo has lost most of her friends. She's lost her true love, more than once. She's lost her grandmother, her job, her reputation, and possibly her mind. But she's never lost her sense of humor. The Ruby Oliver books are the record of her survival.

Review:

Ruby Oliver has made it to her senior year of high school intact and with a boyfriend: Noel. Or is he her boyfriend? Ever since he came back from his summer trip to New York, he's been acting strangely and she can't figure out what's wrong. In the middle of this, Ruby is preparing her college essays and applications (which requires making a video about love, popularity, and friendship because of her wish to be in a film program), fighting with her mother over this and that, dealing with her and father's grief over the death of Grandma Suzette, making up with Nora (again), and so much more. Don't worry, she'll survive. How else could she keep making lists?

After falling in love with the first three books, this fourth novel was highly anticipated and was released at just the right time: I got the first three as Christmas gifts and this one came out just after Christmas. It is the last of Ruby's series and surprisingly, I was not sad to see it end. Most series make me sad when they end because I love them so much, but the Ruby series ended right when it was a good time to end and in the best way.

Ruby is the same cynical romantic she has been the entire series and I love it. She has gotten no less realistic; heck, she's only becoming more of a real fictional person, if that makes any sense. There is one certain quality she has that I go nuts over: how she contradicts herself. Multiple times over the course of the series, she states that she doesn't believe in the happy endings so often presented in the movies she loves. Then the romantic in her indirectly expresses a desire for a happy ending with the guy of her choice. Ruby's previous characterization is neither completely refuted nor stuck to perfectly, and that is exactly how people work. People contradict themselves. That's life. Ruby's contradiction itself, that she doesn't believe in happy endings and yet wants one so badly, strikes a chord with me in particular. That's just how I feel (simplified)! It... I think I just got some inspiration.

Ruby is not the only character that really shines in this book. Noel and Nora, two characters who already played major parts in Ruby's life, continue to go through trials so similar to Ruby's own and try to deal with them their own ways. Noel, a character I've always had a soft spot for, was as inexperienced in relationships as I expected him to be and under the pressure of his issues and Ruby's high expectations for a boyfriend, he balked. He ain't perfect either and I love it. Nora was on the receiving end of Cricket and Kim's not-so-nice words the way Ruby once was, dealt with it appropriately, and made up with Ruby like I hoped she would. Meghan, Hutch, and the rest of the gang are here too, most of them being interviewed for Ruby's college application video. Their varied definitions of love, friendship, and popularity all ring true no matter how different they sound.

The three books before this one all dealt with social issues that I think are important: slut-shaming, right and wrong in friendship, and finding the good in life instead of focusing on the bad. This one still focuses on an issue (the high expectations girls have for their boyfriends or the illusions of love, friendship, and popularity; I couldn't decide), but that doesn't take center stage this time. Instead of focusing on a central issue, Ruby finally puts the focus on herself. The self-loathing (such as calling herself neurotic and a mental patient) gets a closer examination than it ever has before, allowing her to see just how detrimental her half-playful insults at herself have been to her. There are still times when she will concentrate on anything but herself (see: when she concentrates on a photo Doctor Z puts face-down on her desk), but Ruby is finally getting the big picture: she's not crazy! She just has problems that every teenager has!

The day I finished this book, I was miserable. The night before, a 45,000 word novel I've been slaving over for two years was corrupted by my flash drive, which was starting to mess up after two years of constant use. Unless a miracle happens and someone can uncorrupt it, that file and all the edits I made to it are lost. I was still upset about it this morning and with nothing to do in my first class, I brought out Real Live Boyfriends and started reading. It had me laughing and crying and for about an hour, I didn't think about that lost novel at all. Ruby brought me into her world and comforted me with all of her drama and funny quips and heartfelt scenes. I would have loved this book regardless, but it gets a huge amount of extra points of making me feel better.
Lockhart has written a beautiful, perfect ending to this quartet and brought out the truth of teenage relationships and love in a way so few authors have in my recent reading list. From this moment on, I'm going to keep an eye on her blog so that I'll know about any future projects. She is now among my favorite authors and I heartily recommend her books to anyone who asks for recommendations.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Bloody Valentine by Melissa de la Cruz