The Ruby Oliver Series: Review

23 04 2012

This is a review of the entire Ruby Oliver series written by E. Lockhart. There should be no spoilers in this review. The blurb is from the fist book, The Boyfriend List

Here is a description of the series:

E. Lockhart’s spot-on dialogue and descriptions of painfully but hilariously relatable situations make this young adult novel an addictive read.

Fifteen-year-old Ruby has had a rough ten days. During that time she:

* lost her boyfriend (#13 on the list)
* lost her best friend (Kim)
* lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket)
* did something suspicious with a boy (#10)
* did something advanced with a boy (#15)
* had an argument with a boy (#14)
* had a panic attack
* lost a lacrosse game (she’s the goalie)
* failed a math test (she’ll make it up)
* hurt Meghan’s feelings (even though they aren’t really friends)
* became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch)
* had graffiti written about her in the girls’ bathroom (who knows what was in the

But don’t worry—Ruby lives to tell the tale. And make more lists.

At first glance, the Ruby Oliver series seems to be just another chick-lit series. The premise — a girl tries to understand relationships with a number of boys and understand herself — seems silly and predictable. And the covers (both for the paperbacks and hardcovers) scream “girl”; the hardcovers show cute, cartoony images of animals and figures and the paperbacks show a brown-haired girl in different poses. One would expect this series to be fruitless and a quick, fun read.

And while it might be easy to disregard this series, cast it off as yet another boring and predictable chick-lit series, there is so much more depth to these books. Ruby confronts real questions about her sexuality, romance, and what it means to be a woman. She talks to a therapist (dubbed Dr. Z) to help with panic attacks and the two of them also have important, deeper conversations. The boys have depth. too, with personalities that Lockhart cleverly exposes over the course of the books, and they aren’t simple stereotypes. Her parents are constantly engaged in a power struggle that neither of them admits to, and Ruby’s strained relationship with her friends, and her attempts to make and cultivate new friends, also brings depth beyond the romance.

And the books are funny! Ruby’s come up with plenty of terms, like “ag”, “Reginald”, and “chunder”. She explains these words and other things (like her father’s obsession with classic rock) in footnotes peppered throughout the book and the series. The books made me laugh aloud many times, and the humor adds an extra level to the reading experience.

This would not be a true review of the series if I did not mention, in some way, the boys, the ones that are pivotal to the story and Ruby understanding the many nuances of having boyfriends and “boy friends”. There are quite a few main love interests (4): Jackson, Gideon, Noel, and Hutch. I will say that right away I had a personal favorite and it seems that Lockhart also agreed with my personal favorite choice as being a good boyfriend for Ruby. What I really love about the boys is they all show Ruby different aspects of being a boyfriend and show her the many highs and lows of dating. The boys are hilarious as well, and I loved Noel and Ruby’s many “quests”. In terms of whom Ruby ends up with in the end, the person she chooses may be predictable but the ending is very sweet and I (personally) thought that she-and-boyfriend would be a great couple.

I also love the friendship aspect, with Ruby and her friends creating The Boy Book and later Ruby creating her own journal (dubbed The Girl Book). These books are just as much about friendship as they are about romance, as Ruby navigates her friendships and decides who she really cares for and really wants to be her “girl friend” as people tease and harass her. She really comes into her own on friendship through the series, redefining her ideas of friendship.

And Ruby. Oh, Roo. She’s funny and kind and sweet but very self-deprececating and self-loathing. She’s a relatable main character, though, and the situations she finds herself in are relatable and realistic. Plus, her humor is awesome! I really also liked seeing how much Roo grows over the series as she develops new ideas about sexuality, boys, and romance. She’s a very strong heroine and probably one of my new favorite heroines.

And finally I must discuss E. Lockhart’s writing. Her writing is humorous (a perfect fit for her main character), succinct, and very easy to read. Her writing style works perfectly for the type of book that she was attempting to write.

This review is mainly one long gush, but overall I’d like to say something: these books are a lot more than they seem, and I would recommend reading the entire series. Ruby’s story may seem like a frothy boy-adventure series but it’s really a fascinating story with friendship, romance, and many great questions (not to mention the humor). So if you’ve been avoiding this series due to the girly covers, marketing copy, or it just didn’t seem to “be your thing” then check Ruby out!

4.5 stars for the entire series



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