Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ruby Oliver Quartet: A Book Series Review

This review contains NO SPOILERS. Enjoy! (:

Today I have for you my first series book review for E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver Series.
I believe that I first heard about this series through John Green. He mentioned in passing, either in a video, on twitter, or someone other way in which I follow that man. I added it to my "saved items" in my Amazon cart, and there it sat for probably 6+ months. I finally bought it near the beginning of 2013 and read each subsequent book in the series in the following months.

Series: Ruby Oliver Series
Author: E. Lockhart
Book #1: The Boyfriend List
Book #2: The Boy Book
Book #3: The Treasure Map of Boys
Book #4: Real Live Boyfriends
Genre: YA Contemporary/Chick-Lit
Published: 2005-2009
Link: Goodreads

Here's the formatting of this review:
  1. Introductory Comments
  2. Mini reviews for each book (all spoiler-free)
  3. Book standings
  4. Final verdict

So, without further ado, let's get on with this review.

1. Introductory Comments

The Ruby Oliver Series follows Ruby Oliver, a high schooler who, in the height of drama amongst friends, boys, and just high school in general, becomes mentally distressed. The series follows her relationship with friends and boys as well as with her therapist who she visits on a weekly basis.

*side note: This series (especially the first book) has a significant amount of footnotes that help with the telling of the story. I suggest not purchasing this book in e-book format, as it makes reading footnotes much more difficult.

2. Mini reviews

BOOK #1: The Boyfriend List
(photo source)
Book description (courtesy of Goodreads):

"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 boys'!?!)

But don't worry--Ruby lives to tell the tale. And make more lists.

Mini Review:

As my first read in this series, I felt E. Lockhart's writing had a great, very personable voice. Ruby was very well characterized and the writing itself fit the style. This book very well captured the essence of what I felt like in high school. I wasn't at all in the same predicament as Ruby, but her reactions and emotions were so authentic that I felt like I was back in high school. After reading this first novel in the series, I would say I definitely liked it enough to care to the second.

BOOK #2: The Boy Book

Book description (courtesy of Goodreads):
(photo source)

"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.

Mini Review:

Good sequel. It carried the voice of the first book very well and, whereas in the first book the spotlight focus is on Ruby and her visits with Dr. Z, this book lets us outside of that office a bit more. Not much else to say for this one. If you liked its predecessor, you'll like this one too. Very consistent.

BOOK #3: Treasure Map of Boys
(photo source)
Book description (courtesy of Goodreads):

"Ruby is back at Tate Prep, and it’s her thirty-seventh week in the state of Noboyfriend. Her panic attacks are bad, her love life is even worse, and what’s more:

Noel is writing her notes, Jackson is giving her frogs, Gideon is helping her cook, and Finn is making her brownies. Rumors are flying, and Ruby’s already-sucky reputation is heading downhill.

Not only that, she’s also: running a bake sale, learning the secrets of heavymetal therapy, encountering some seriously smelly feet, defending the rights of pygmy goats, and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances.

In this companion novel to The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book, Ruby struggles to secure some sort of mental health, to understand what constitutes a real friendship, and to find true love—if such a thing exists.

Mini Review:

Ah, my absolute favorite of the bunch. At this point I'm just amazed at how much detail E. Lockhart can write about this cast of characters. They're all very real and I am not yet tired of this series. Also, very consistent in writing and style. Delightful read.

BOOK #4: Real-live Boyfriends

(photo source)
Book description (courtesy of Goodreads):

"Ruby Oliver is in love. Or it would be love, if Noel, her real live boyfriend, would call her back. But Noel seems to have turned into a pod-robot lobotomy patient, and Ruby can’t figure out why.

Not only is her romantic life a shambles:
Her dad is eating nothing but Cheetos,
Her mother’s got a piglet head in the refrigerator,
Hutch has gone to Paris to play baguette air guitar,
Gideon shows up shirtless,
And the pygmy goat Robespierre is no help whatsoever.

Will Ruby ever control her panic attacks?
Will she ever understand boys?
Will she ever stop making lists?
(No to that last one.)

Roo has lost most of her friends. She’s lost her true love, more than once. She’s lost her grandmother, her job, her reputation, and possibly her mind. But she’s never lost her sense of humor. The Ruby Oliver books are the record of her survival.

Mini Review:

By this point in the series I'm very excited to see Ruby again. I'm anxious to see what is in store for her next. However, I can confidently say that as I was reading this book, I could already tell it was my least favorite book of the bunch. I felt Ruby somewhat disgressed in the progress she made in the previous books. And despite how realistic that may be, I was really rooting for her to move forward and not repeat past mistakes. I still enjoyed this book, and I still liked Ruby. However, since my interest in this series was gradually growing with each book, I read this book in anticipation for it to be the best of the bunch. That perhaps, assisted in its disappointment. Still enjoyed it. Just not my favorite of the series. (Also, slightly irrelevant, but I found Ruby's mother to be especially annoying in this book.)

3. Book standings

favorite to least favorite:
  • The Treasure Map of Boys
  • The Boy Book
  • The Boyfriend List
  • Real Live Boyfriends

4. Final Verdict

The Ruby Oliver Series is one I would certainly recommend to high schoolers, and even mature middle schoolers (mature because I think Ruby could easily be misinterpreted to the immature/younger mind as simply a book all about boys! boys! boys!). I would even recommend this book to older women who aren't in high school who are still interested in the complexity, and simplicity, behind all types of relationships.

Overall, this series gets two thumbs up from me. The entire series is very consistent and coherent. Even though I was slightly disappointed by book 4, I would still say the series as a whole has no outstanding "bad" book (ie: for me, Mockingjay in The Hunger Games Trilogy). E. Lockhart is an amazing YA author. I swear she's a teenaged girl trapped in a grown woman's body.

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