Corgi, 2006 (2005)
"The Boyfriend List was a homework assignment for my mental health. Doctor Z, my shrink, told me to write down all the boyfriends, kind-of boyfriends, almost-boyfriends, rumoured boyfriends and wished-he-were boyfriends I've ever had. Plus, she recommended I take up knitting."
Ruby Oliver is fifteen and has a shrink. It might be unusual, but that's what happens when you lose your boyfriend and your best friends, become a social outcast at school and start have panic attacks. What else is there to do but skip school for the day, read mystery novels and eat spearmint jelly candies...?
Things that I like in books:
2. Lists (a la High Fidelity)
3. (Funny) footnotes (I get enough serious footnotes in real life)
5. Pictures (a la Amy & Roger's Epic Detour)
So when I opened up The Boyfriend List, I was excited to see a) a list (obviously), and b) footnotes. Two pages in and I had to put it down again, because one of the footnotes came after use of the word "debacle", to explain what it meant, and I wondered if I was going to end up throwing the whole thing out the window.
I was on the fence for a while with this book, actually. Ruby is s a likable narrator in the angsty-fifteen-year-old vein, but I felt like her whole personality was completely overshadowed by this litany of boys she'd been out with, or not been out with, or liked from afar. At one point she agonises over the fact that she didn't kiss a boy until she was 13. These kind of books freaked me out as a teenager: on the one hand, here were awkward, analytic teenage girls picking things apart and over-thinking every little thing, just like me, and not kissing boys and going to parties and whatever, just like me... But they were also STARTING to do all these things, and they gradually figured out that they were just like everyone else. Except I wasn't just like everyone else, because I still wasn't kissing boys and I didn't like the right kind of music or wear the right kind of clothes, right up until an age when I had stopped reading young adult books anyway. (Two out of three of those facts are still true, I'll leave you to decide.)
But, back to the book. As it went on, I started to appreciate it more: Ruby starts thinking about herself a little bit more (with the help of Dr. Z), and suffers some pretty brutal humiliations at the hands of her ex-friends. In between, she recounts all her romantic encounters thus far, none of which have been particularly edifying. The Boyfriend List is funny (maybe not "agonizingly funny", as the blurb states, but funny nonetheless) in a kind of Georgia Nicholson way, which I enjoyed. I liked Ruby a lot more as she started to realise who was really on her side and who wasn't. The ending, too, was abrupt but realistic: even though the whole book is about boys, the ending confirms that there are other important things too.
There was also a snippet of the sequel in the back of this paperback copy, The Boy Book, featuring the lovely Noel. Although we all know I would have picked Hutch. ;)
Overall rating: 7.5/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.
Cover watch: This is the UK paperback cover. Although the frog does have significance within the book, it makes it look like a completely different book from this, the US cover:
In this case I much prefer the US cover, even though it makes the think the narrator would be older than she actually is in the book. The frog and the pink splodges just aren't doing it for me...