Real Live Boyfriends is the final book in e. lockhart's Ruby Oliver quartet. See my other reviews of The Boyfriend List (15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver) (Book 1) and The Boy Book and The Treasure Map of Boys (Books 2 and 3 reviewed together). I must admit that I put off reading this one, because I liked the idea of having one more Ruby Oliver book to read. I was sorry to see the series end. But I think that e. lockhart left Ruby in a good place, and that Real Live Boyfriends is a satisfying end to the series.
Real Live Boyfriends begins with Ruby happy with her "real live boyfriend" Noel. A "real live boyfriend", as outlined in an early list in the book, is one who calls you, and talks to you, and kisses you, and sits with you at lunch. One might think that such things would be obvious, but in Ruby's life, no relationship is simple and straightforward. And soon, alas, things with Noel fall apart, too. Which is particularly sad, given that Ruby torpedoed her relationship with her friend Nora in order to date Noel. When Ruby's grandmother dies, and her father retreats into depression, and her mother outright runs away from the family drama, and her friend Hutch goes to study abroad for a semester, Ruby's life looks pretty bleak. But she wouldn't be Ruby Oliver if she didn't find a way to bounce back (and even find a possible new boyfriend, as hinted at by the subtitle).
Real Live Boyfriends features Ruby's entertaining and engaging voice, matured somewhat since the first book (she's a high school senior now), but still the same in essence. Here are a couple of classic quotes (they are easy to find - I could pretty much pick something from any page in the book):
... (Meghan) somehow knows how to connect with boys. Not like they're Neanderthals or wildebeests or aliens or pod-robots, but like they're normal human beings.
Which obviously they are.
Only, it is extremely hard to tell sometimes." (Page 6)
Mom was lying on the floor with her head on Polka-dot, our dog. I was standing at the fridge feeling a wave of ennui because of the severe lack of deliciousness therein." (Page 9)
I mean, who doesn't love a narrator who uses "ennui" and "deliciousness" in the same sentence? Real Live Boyfriends is also full of witty footnotes, like the other books in the series. Like this:
""Keep On Loving You": Retro power ballad by REO Speedwagon. Dad is obsessed with retro metal. I think it makes him feel like he's still seventeen. Though why anyone would want to feel like they're seventeen I have no idea." (Page 13)
Real Live Boyfriends is overflowing with angst and emotional scenes (between Ruby and Noel, Ruby and her Mom, etc.), albeit laced with humor. But you'll also find flashes of genuine insight, as when Meghan says, during a video interview with Ruby about popularity, "Get over it, Roo. If you have friends who actually like you, you're popular enough." I mean, I would like to think that I knew that in high school. I would like my daughter to know it, at any rate. Meghan is my favorite supporting character in this series - she feels completely real, flaws and all.
I didn't particularly like seeing Ruby in conflict with Noel in this book. But I still enjoyed the book. I thought that Ruby had a very nice arc of character development over the series (highlighted by regular scenes with her therapist), significant but completely plausible. I think that the Ruby Oliver quartet would be wonderful to read all together, really looking at that personal development over time. Perhaps I'll read these with my daughter in 10 years or so.
In the meantime, I wholeheartedly recommend Real Live Boyfriends to fans of the Ruby Oliver series. If you're not already a fan, don't start with this book. Go back and start with The Boyfriend List. The Ruby Oliver books are delightful realistic young adult fiction, perfect for 12-year-old girls interested in popularity, dating, and growing up (though probably not a good fit for most boys).
Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: December 28, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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