Title: The Boyfriend List
Author: E. Lockhart
Warnings: Spoilers (and I spill the ending)!
TBL is the first book in The Boyfriend Quartet. I read it for the first time when I was about twelve; I read it for a summer reading assignment. I loved it. I found it in my high-school library so I decided to read it again.
The book is about a fifteen-year-old girl (Ruby) who’s had a rough past ten days. She’s begun to have panic attacks because of everything that’s happened. When her parents see her having a panic attack at the dinner table, they call their friends to get therapist recommendations. Ruby ends up with Doctor Lorraine Zackzkowski (Dr. Z). She makes Ruby write a list of all the boys she’s ever crushed on, dated, wished she’s dated—everything. The end result is a list of fifteen boys; Ruby has to tell Dr. Z the story behind each boy and has to explain about the Spring Fling debacle that’s led to her current social status at school.
The first boy on Ruby’s list is Adam Cox. He was in Ruby’s preschool class; she liked him so much that she named a stuffed bunny after him. When Ruby turns five, she goes to kindergarten at Tate Preparatory School and Adam goes somewhere else. When Ruby is thirteen, she sees Adam again an inter-school dance. She tries to talk to him, but either Adam really doesn’t remember her, or he pretends not to because he ignores her.
The second boy on the list is Finn Murphy. In the second-grade, he and Ruby are in the library looking at a wildlife book together. Two girls (Ariel and Katarina) see them and tease them. Ruby stops talking to Finn after that day. In the tenth-grade, Ruby’s best friend Kim Yamamoto hooks up with Finn; Ruby tries to get past what happened in elementary-school.
The third boy on Ruby’s list in John “Hutch” Hutchinson. In the fourth-grade, he put a bag of gummy bears in her mail cubby. But one day, he puts a bag of the same gummy bears in Ariel’s mail cubby. Ruby tells Dr. Z that she felt he was replacing her.
The fourth boy on Ruby’s list is Gideon Van Deusen, her ex-friend Nora’s older brother. Gideon is about three years older than Ruby. She starts liking him when she is eleven, and writes “Ruby loves GVD” on her shoe. Nora accidentally sees it, and promises she won’t tell. She doesn’t keep the promise; Gideon sees her shoe and says he is flattered. Nothing ever progresses between them. He always treats her like a sister.
The fifth boy on Ruby’s list is Ben Moi. He is at Ruby’s summer camp after the sixth-grade. Ruby has a crush on him; she thinks he was golden. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know she existed.
The sixth boy on Ruby’s list is Tommy Hazard. Tommy is a fictional boy made up by Kim and Ruby on their seventh-grade hike. Tommy is the boy who is Ruby’s perfect boyfriend; he has all the qualities she wants in a real boyfriend.
The seventh boy on Ruby’s list is Chase Williams. In the seventh-grade, he gives her a pretty beaded necklace, but he never asks her out; he has his friend Josh do all the taking. Unfortunately for Chase, Ruby doesn’t like him back.
The eighth boy on Ruby’s list is Sky. Ruby meets him at a swim meet (they go to different schools) and she gives him her e-mail address. They keep in touch, and he asks her out. They have a fun date, but the next day Ruby sees him at the mall with his arm around another girl. She asks around, and finds out Sky has had the same girlfriend for three months.
The ninth boy on Ruby’s list is Michael Malone. They meet at summer camp when Ruby is thirteen. Ruby is grossed out by him. During a game of Spin the Bottle, he gets her; unfortunately for Ruby, Michael is her first kiss.
The tenth boy on Ruby’s list is Angelo Martinez. Ruby knows him because his mom is best friends with her mom Elaine. They go to Homecoming at Angelo’s school one year.
The eleventh boy on Ruby’s list is Shiv Neel. They have Drama Elective together freshman-year, and they are assigned to do a project together. Shiv asks Ruby to be his girlfriend, and she says yes. Ruby tells her friends all about it, and her friend Cricket McCall asks what he smelled like. That makes all of them laugh, and Shiv ignores her after overhearing them laughing (it is a misunderstanding).
The twelfth boy on Ruby’s list is Billy. She meets him at a toga party during freshman-year. He says he’ll call her but he never does.
The thirteenth boy on Ruby’s list is Jackson Clarke. He is Ruby’s boyfriend for most of her sophomore-year. He isn’t that great of a boyfriend; he is a liar and a manipulator. He eventually dumps Ruby for Kim.
The fourteenth boy on Ruby’s list is Noel DuBoise. He gets involved with her after a rumor regarding the two of them gets spread around the school. They get into a fight when Noel tells Ruby that she needs to forget about all the fake girls she’s been calling her friends. Ruby makes him a card for an apology, and they become friends.
The fifteenth boy on Ruby’s list is Shep “Cabbie” Cabot. He’s a year older than her and he plays rugby. He asks her out and they go see a movie. He gropes her breast in a movie theatre; she finds him good at that, but not interesting so she breaks up with him.
The Spring Fling debacle is when it all starts to go downhill for Ruby. Jackson breaks up with Ruby before the dance and begins dating Kim. Kim isn’t going to be in Seattle for the dance; she suggests Jackson take Ruby as friends. Ruby kisses him and he kisses her back, but changes his tune when he gets caught. Jackson tells Kim what happened; Kim hates Ruby and calls her a slut. Cricket and Nora side with Ruby, justifying it because they say Ruby stole Kim’s boyfriend.
Then the boyfriend list debacle makes everything even worse. Ruby throws away her first draft of her list for Dr. Z; she throws it away in a school garbage can and Kim digs it out. In retaliation for trying to steal Jackson, Kim photocopies the list and puts a copy in every high-schooler’s mail cubby. Ruby loses all her friends, and nobody in school will talk to her.
In the novel’s conclusion, Jackson and Kim are still together. Ruby realises she still has feelings for Jackson, even though he didn’t turn out to be the person Ruby thought he was. Kim and Cricket aren’t speaking to Ruby; Nora is (a little bit).
This was a great book. I loved the story, especially how it flashes back to things that happened when Ruby was in middle school, and then to her at fifteen when she’s telling Dr. Z about them. What I really liked about this book was the footnotes.
This is the first fiction book I’ve read that has footnotes, and I found that I really enjoyed them. Inside the footnotes are explanatory comments, ramblings, or lists of movies used to make Ruby’s points more effectively.
I liked the footnotes because they were a clever way to ramble yet stay on the topic simultaneously.
The most important thing is E.’s theme. It’s actually a theme I’ve never read about before.
You read that right. The theme of this book is slut-shaming. (But in a good way). Characters in this book use the word “slut” like it’s a part of ordinary every day conversation. And nobody bats an eye; they just look the other way. Ruby’s American History & Politics teacher Mr. Wallace gives a massive lecture on this behavior. Megan Flack (a friend of Ruby’s) constantly gets slut-shamed for multiple reasons. Ruby is guilty of this herself, (labeling Megan as a slut) but she changes her ways and apologizes when she becomes a victim of it. (Ruby gets slut-shamed after everyone reads the boyfriend list).
I really liked this book, and I was impressed that while it contained prep-school drama, it also had substance. Never really thought much about slut-shaming before reading TBL. It was bold of E. to choose this as a theme for her first book.
I’d totally recommend this book, and I will update again soon.