Monday, 25 October 2010
Review: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
The Boyfriend List is teenage fiction at its finest. In the tradition of such greats as Judy Blume and Paula Danziger, E. Lockhart has created the kind of heroine who somehow encapsulates the teenage experience so accurately that it's impossible not to relate to her. You may never have had a panic attack or seen a therapist, but chances are you will still find yourself struck by how often you've felt exactly as Ruby does in The Boyfriend List. As a character, she's smart and funny and somewhat neurotic, all in a way that's completely understandable, given what she's been through.
We find out exactly what Ruby has been through gradually, as she recounts - as a therapy exercise - the stories of every single crush, relationship and almost-relationship she's ever had. It's a sorry (but supremely witty) tale of miscommunication, misunderstandings and wishful thinking. At the centre of the story, and of Ruby's recent problems, is the ultimate betrayal. While this twist is foreshadowed enough that we know to expect it, by the time it's revealed readers will have forged such a bond with Ruby that their blood will boil on her behalf.
In truth, I sometimes found myself a little disorientated by the timeline of Ruby's narrative. She mixes recent flashbacks with long-ago flashbacks and present day scenes, and when in doubt I found it useful to refer to the boyfriend list itself, helpfully reproduced in full at the front of the book and corresponding to the chapter titles. Further commentary and additional backstory is conveyed by the use of footnotes, which are detailed and pertinent and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Yet there's an authenticity and sincerity to Ruby's voice that ensures these devices never feel forced or gimmicky. It's a joy to read.
At its heart, The Boyfriend List is about communication and honesty. By turns snarky and sensitive and sweet, it's the kind of book that shows teenage relationships as they really are - no soulmates, no eternity, and no guarantees. It's fantastic. If you haven't already read it, you really should.
Out: 2005, UK