Book Review: The Boyfriend List

Ruby is having panic attacks. Her boyfriend has broken up with her, none of her friends are speaking with her, her ride to school won’t take her anymore, and her parents are sure she is feeling suicidal or anorexic. Welcome to the story of The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, a masterful look inside the life of a teenage girl. This girl is every girl. Reading this book was like looking back at parts of my past, and it was amazing and painful to take the journey with her.

Lockhart writes truthfully on the way a girl thinks about boys. Ruby reveals pieces of her life one bit at a time. Her therapist asks her to create a boyfriend list: a list of every guy she has liked, dated, thought about dating, kissed, or had a special relationship with. Ruby isn’t sure how this is going to help her solve her immediate problem: getting her boyfriend back and getting life back to normal. But as she examines each boy on the list, Ruby may discover she’s not the victim she thinks she is.

Lockhart is spot on. Ruby is like a poster child for the things women do to screw up their lives. We fall for a guy, and when he doesn’t end up being prince charming, what do we do? We beg, plead, cajole, manipulate, and lower ourselves–do anything but the thing we should do, pack our bags and move on. I wanted to be hard on her, but she is so dang sympathetic it’s impossible.

I think this book has it all: teenage angst, unhealed wounds, a journey of self-discovery, a lot of pain, and also hope for the future. Also, I think most girls would admit they could relate to at least one of the stories in this book.

Here are things I have done that Ruby did:

  1. Wait by the phone for a guy to call
  2. Allow myself to be a victim of heartbreak
  3. Flirt with one of my friend’s boyfriends
  4. Not be honest with myself about my motives
  5. Kiss a guy to make myself feel better
  6. Feel tremendous pain at betrayal
  7. Not take action to change my future

I have to hand it to Ruby, though, she does make progress eventually, as everyone must if they want to heal. As I was reading this book, I was thinking it was similar to the book/movie High Fidelity. In that story, the male protagonist tries to discover the answer to the age-old question “Why does this always happen to me?” by looking back on his 5 most painful break-ups. Like Ruby, he even asks some of the women directly, “Why did you break up with me?” In each case, Rob discovers it wasn’t just because he was unlovable or ugly, but rather a case of the wrong time or a misunderstanding or some such thing.

E. Lockhart has a great future as a writer, and I recommend this book highly to any teenage girl from age 14 and up.

Other Reviews:

A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

Goddess Librarian

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4 Responses to Book Review: The Boyfriend List

  1. Ashley says:

    That was good review but no girl 14 years old needs to deal with dating, it’s a guy they’ll be there when your ready… and they’ll be better.

  2. andrea says:

    Ashley–“…no girl 14 years old needs to deal with dating…”. Do you mean to say that no fourteen-year-old should be flirting with guys or trying to impress them? “…it’s a guy they’ll be there when you’re ready…” What if they’re there when you’re not ready? Does this not happen? Often? I started dating this guy in eighth grade–I was thirteen–because he was when he looked at me, I felt my heart dive into my stomach. When he asked me to see a movie with him, I would nod and say “yes” before I even registered that he had asked me anything. I think that you are wrong, that every girl fourteen or older should deal with dating–NOT, I mean to make this clear, TRYING to flaunt all she’s got to any guy who will look down her shirt, but because she has no choice, and because someone has taken hold of her heart and flipped it upside-down. I have been dating Ethan, the guy who asked me out in eighth grade, for three years now. No arguments. No breakups. A steady, glorious three years. I’m NOT “dealing” with dating at sixteen years old, I’m EXCPERIENCING the best kind of feeling there is–a kind of compassion, concern, and honesty that I think is love. (Sorry to ramble away from the review, but I thought that I should soapbox it for a minute…)

  3. wakecounty says:

    I can agree with Ashley when she says that 14 is too early. I think I was too young to be as invested in boyfriends as I was because I needed to focus on other things like my studies and friends. I let boys’ opinions of me impact me too much. On the other hand, I think it’s great that Andrea has found a boyfriend she can count on. Whether or not girls should or should not date is beside the point, I think this book is important because it hits on what girls are dealing with everyday, right or wrong.

  4. Connie Harr says:

    I think it is very good that there are strong young women who are deciding what is good for themselves, and pursuing what it is that will lead them to live out their goals and values. Having said that, it is also important to remember that there are few 14 year olds who are experiencing the kind of mature and health relationship that was described. What do you see is most usual for young teen dating experiences out there? Do most feel joy or regret after the dating relationship ends? Do you thinking dating young helps you develop a health self image or hinder it? Do guys date for the same reasons that girls date? Do you think friendships suffer when teens start to date? How do you manage it all?

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