Author: E. Lockhart
Publication Date: 9/26/06
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Blurb(GR): 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.
This series continues to impress me so, so much. While reading this one I just kept thinking that I’ve seen this girl so many times before: the quirky, talkative, somewhat eccentric girl(1)*. The girl who soldiers on even when everyone’s against her. This girl is a major fixture in young adult novels. Ruby Oliver has all of these attributes, yes, but they’re just a fraction of her whole self. She’s neurotic and jealous, thoughtful and earnest, petty and generous. She feels lust and remorse and pride and self-hatred. She’s a character that you want to get up and cheer for, shake your head at, give a consoling hug to, and hang out with after school. And she’s so fully dimensional that reading these books feels like doing all of those things. Here’s the thing about her that gets under my skin the most: she tries so damn hard. She’s not perfect but she keeps trying.
Things are even more complicated in this book, after the scandal that left Ruby a roly-poly(2) and a famous slut(3) in the first book is finally starting to die down. Her former best friend Kim – who was chiefly responsible for spreading those horrible rumors about her - is on exchange in Tokyo for the school year, and now her ex-boyfriend Jackson and her ex-friend Nora seem to want to be in her life again.
It would be easy for Ruby to let them back in without making a fuss, to passively accept whatever they have to offer and try to make herself forget everything that’s happened. It would also be easy for her to cut them ruthlessly out of her life and never look back. Well, relatively easy anyway. What’s hard is finding a balance, between being a good friend and a good person, and maintaining her self-respect. Ruby must find a way to establish boundaries, but accept the friendship that she wants.
I know that all of these titles will lead readers to believe that these books are all about THE BOYS. And yes, there are a number of sweet love interests in these books(4)…but to say that they’re all about boys would be selling them very short. These books are about Ruby’s personal growth, toward being a better friend and toward being a stronger person. There are triumphant moments (like when she gives Kim the boy book – I practically cheered(5)) but they are a quieter brand of triumph. There’s no exaggerated comeuppance for the villains and there’s no sudden and complete awakenings for Ruby. There are no villains for that matter, and Ruby is no reformed girl. And I love her all the more for it.
*I can't figure out out to do superscript in here. Boo.
(1) Young adult books featuring quirky, talkative, somewhat eccentric girls who soldier on: Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Lola And The Boy Next Door, The Princess Diaries, Flat-Out Love, Crown Duel, Hex Hall, Saving Francesca, Anna And The French Kiss, The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants. (Note that many of these are favorites of mine.)
(2) Roly-Poly: just one of the many fun words coined by Ruby and essentially meaning "social outcast." A replacement of the term "leper" due to the facts that a) leprosy is actually not all that contagious and b) doesn't actually result in blue/green discoloration of the skin. Read the books to actually make sense of that reasoning. Also, read the books for more fun terms like "chunder," "Ag," "mocha latte," and "Reginald."
(3) Famous slut: this is how Ruby feels labeled after the events of the first book. It's incredible how much subtext there is in these books about girls not being ashamed to be sexual and not being afraid to stand up for themselves.
(4) Okay, I know these books AREN'T really about the boys, but there are some wonderful, realistic, awkward love interests in these books! Which I will now shallowly rate in order of my preference: Hutch (yes, seriously...he snuck up on me), Noel, Gideon, Finn, Shiv, that one guy that asked for Ruby's number at a party but never called, and finally...I guess...Jackson (bastard).
(5) That scene got to me so much! It would have been satisfying to see Ruby lay the smack down on Kim...but it was even better to see her treat Kim with respect. Oh Ruby.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Cyndi Lauper – Insecurious
"How can I trust my intuition
I don't hear what you need to say
I got to know is this feeling fact or fiction
Take these doubts away
You say I'm insecure
I say I'm just curious."
I think this song perfectly captures what it's like to be in a relationship with that person who is so non-communicative and and falsely happy (hello, Jackson) that it just turns you into a paranoid, insecure mess. And now I have the perfect retort for that person: I'm not insecure; I'm insecurious. Take that Jackson!