Here is how things stand at the beginning of newly-licensed driver Ruby Oliver’s junior year at Tate Prep:
* Kim: Not speaking. But far away in Tokyo.
* Cricket: Not speaking.
* Nora: Speaking—sort of. Chatted a couple times this summer when they bumped into each other outside of school—once shopping in the U District, and once in the Elliot Bay Bookstore. But she hadn’t called Ruby, or anything.
* Noel: Didn’t care what anyone thinks.
* Meghan: Didn’t have any other friends.
* Dr. Z: Speaking.
* And Jackson. The big one. Not speaking.
But, by Winter Break, a new job, an unlikely but satisfying friend combo, additional entries to The Boy Book and many difficult decisions help Ruby to see that there is, indeed, life outside the Tate Universe.
Spoiler warning: Possible spoilers from the first book in this review.
In the second book of the Ruby Oliver series, The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them by E. Lockhart, we meet Roo again fresh from the throes of her (mis)adventures in the first book. This time, though, the rumors about her had settled down but it doesn’t make her less of a social leper. On the up side, her ex-best friend, Kim, who stole her ex-boyfriend from her is not in school for an exchange program. On the downside, Jackson the ex-boyfriend is still there, and he is sending her notes all of sudden, despite the current attachment to Ruby’s ex-best friend. And then there’s Noel, who’s been hanging around her but only because he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Or does he? With even more friendship issues and entries from a notebook called The Boy Book, will Roo find out that there is life other than what she knows?
A little story first, before I talk about the book. When I was in Grade 5, my best friend then and I had a notebook dedicated for our current crushes. Okay, the notebook idea wasn’t entirely original since another group of girls had their own (fancier) notebook, and we just wanted one of our own, too, since we can’t join their group anymore.1 So I got one of the many spare notebooks at home, made some (not-so) fancy artwork on the cover, fashioned a “lock” and made it our crush notebook. There we wrote letters, stories and all sorts of mushy stuff directed to our crushes, the things we can’t bear to say to them in person.2 The notebook pretty much died soon after my current best friend told me to share the notebook with one of her close friends and I wasn’t comfortable with it, also with the fact that I couldn’t keep the notebook at home because people liked to snoop in my room an read my diaries and that crush notebook was sacred and cannot be seen by anyone else, ever!
I have long burned that notebook (my pages of it, anyway) because I’ve learned that owning a notebook like that with observations and letters about other people (boys in particular) is kind of dangerous, and not really a wise thing to do especially if someone who knows those boys reads it. Think Harriet the Spy. So the existence of The Boy Book in the book with the same name was kind of impressive, especially with the wealth of information Roo and her friends have written there. At her age, I have never even thought of trying anything that was accounted for there.
That’s the thing about The Boy Book: it’s so high school. Not even my kind of high school experiences, too. But not that it’s a bad thing — as usual, E. Lockhart excels in making the characters’ voices authentic and funny. There’s not so much external issues in this book as in the first one. The Boy Book had more of Roo trying to get her feet back under her again after the chaos that is The Boyfriend List, and also finding out just who her real friends are and that there is a world outside of her high school life. I wasn’t a fan of Roo’s choices in the first half of the book, but she grows is a more obvious way later on. Granted, they still revolve around high school, but she showed the first signs of maturity in the book even if she herself said that it wasn’t what she really wanted. But it was the right thing to do. While I liked The Boyfriend List just a little bit more than this, The Boy Book ended in such a way that I immediately wanted to get the next book on my hands and read what happens to Roo and her friends.
The high school tone of this book makes me think that this may be too high school for some older readers, though. Roo’s choices and predicaments a bit shallow compared to the “real life” problems like work and taxes and all that. But then again…that’s high school, you know? Admit it — at one point or another, we all thought that the world revolves around the things we worry about when we were at that age, and if things don’t go our way or if things go out of our control, it feels like the world is ending. Ruby’s story reminds me of my own experiences at that age, and it also makes me sigh with relief that I am already done with that stage of my life.
Now if only I could say the same about taxes.
Reviews of other Ruby Oliver books:
#1 The Boyfriend List
My copy: paperback, gift from Tricia
The Screaming Nitpicker