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15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver

Written by E. LockhartAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by E. Lockhart



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On Sale: January 16, 2009
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-0-307-51479-0
Published by : Delacorte Press RH Childrens Books

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On Sale: March 22, 2005
ISBN: 978-1-4000-9889-7
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READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

From E. Lockhart, author of the highly acclaimed, New York Times bestseller We Were Liars, which John Green called "utterly unforgettable," comes The Boyfriend List, the first book in the uproarious and heartwarming Ruby Oliver novels.

Ruby Oliver is 15 and has a shrink. She knows it’s unusual, but give her a break—she’s had a rough 10 days. In the past 10 days 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),

drank her first beer (someone handed it to her),

got caught by her mom (ag!),

had a panic attack (scary),

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)

and 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.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

1. Adam (but he doesn't count.)



Adam was this boy that I used to stare at in preschool. His hair was too long, that's why. It stuck out behind his ears and trailed down his neck, whereas all the other five-year-old boys had bowl haircuts. I didn't have too much hair myself--it didn't grow fast and my mom was always trimming it with her nail scissors--so I was a little obsessed with hair.

Adam's last name was Cox, and after I had been eyeing him for a couple of months, I named this stuffed bunny I had after him. All the grown-ups laughed when I said the bunny's name was Cox, and I didn't understand why.

Pretty soon, Adam and I were playing together. Our parents took us to the zoo, and we'd spend time after school in the nearby playground, drawing with chalk and walking up the slide. I remember we went swimming a few times at the YMCA, and hung out in a plastic wading pool in his backyard. His cat had kittens, and I got to help name them because I came over the same morning they were born.

And that was it.

We were only five years old.

When I was old enough for kindergarten, I started at Tate Prep and he went somewhere else.



Doctor Z looked down at the Boyfriend List. She didn't seem too impressed with my Adam Cox story. Or maybe it was the list itself she didn't think much of--though it had taken me a lot of work to do. I started the night after our first appointment, in bed in my pajamas, writing on this thick, cream-colored stationery my grandma Suzette got me. It says Ruby Denise Oliver on the top in this great curlicue font--but I never use it, since anyone I'd want to write to has e-mail.

My first draft, I only wrote down Jackson and Cabbie. Then I added Gideon at the beginning, with a question mark next to his name. Then Michael, the guy who was my first kiss--putting him in between Gideon and Jackson.

Then I turned off my light and tried to go to sleep.

No luck.

Well, I wasn't sleeping well lately anyway--but I lay there with this feeling that the list wasn't finished. I remembered that I'd told Doctor Z about Angelo already, so I turned the light back on and squeezed him in between Jackson and Cabbie.

Oh, and I had mentioned Noel to Doctor Z, too--though we were only friends. I stuck him in right after Jackson, just to have somewhere to put him. Then I rewrote the list in nice handwriting and managed to get myself to sleep--but in the middle of the night I woke up and wrote down two more boys and my History & Politics teacher.

Then I crossed them all out.

At breakfast the next morning, I jumped up from my cereal bowl and put one of them back on.

At school, the hallway by the mail cubbies suddenly seemed like an obstacle course of old crushes and rejections. Shiv Neel. Finn Murphy. Hutch (ag). All three in my face before I even got to my first class. I pulled out the list and wrote them down.

All day long, I thought about boys. (Well, even more than usual.) And the more I thought, the more I remembered.

Adam, the mermaid.

Sky, the jerk.

Ben, the golden boy.

Tommy, who surfed.

Chase, who gave me the necklace.

Billy, who squeezed my boob.

Never in a million years would I have expected the list to be anywhere near so long. But by the end of the day, there were fifteen names on there, and the list was all scribbly-looking, with arrows zooming around to show what order the boys should really go in.

It was a mess, so during geometry I recopied it on the stationery in my best writing and threw the old one away.2 Then I tucked it into a matching envelope to give to Doctor Z.



"Why did you stop playing with Adam?" Doctor Z wanted to know.

"I told you, I started a different school."

"Is there something more?" she said, looking at me over those red-rimmed glasses.

"No."

I had liked making the list, it was kind of fun. But ag. What was the point of talking about something from ten years ago that wasn't even important? Zoo trips with Adam Cox and his mom weren't exactly significant to my mental development.

Not that there was anything else I wanted to talk about.

I just wanted the panic attacks to stop.

And the hollow, sore feeling in my chest to go away.

And to feel like I could make it through lunch period without choking back tears.

And Jackson. I wanted Jackson back.

And my friends.

"Did you ever see him again?"

"Who?" I had forgotten what we were talking about.


From the Hardcover edition.
E. Lockhart|Author Q&A

About E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart - The Boyfriend List

Photo © Courtesy of the author

I ate cinnamon toast for breakfast. I am writing this in my pajamas, which are cute and have cherries on them. I drink too much coffee. I am always cold and wear a ski hat indoors on a regular basis. I like yoga videos. I don't like television. I like to cook. I am a feminist. I always meet deadlines. I hold a grudge. I give good presents. I don't eat meat. I don't wear yellow. I make friends slowly. I am afraid of airplanes. I can not draw.

When I was a teenager, I went to an art school (where I was a leper) and a prep school (where I was popular). Then I went to Vassar, where I went dancing every night and took ballet for credit, followed by Columbia, where I worked extremely hard and nearly lost my mind. Now I earn my living writing.

I am trying to write honestly about the feelings I had when I was a teenager — although not about the things that actually happened to me. (I was never a famous slut, like Roo.) In The Boyfriend List, I wanted to articulate the psychological horror of going to school every day with the guy who dumped you–seeing him with his new girlfriend. And I wanted to describe the kind of microcosm that exists in a small school where everybody's known each other forever.

I write on a Macintosh in a tiny office that doubles as my closet. It has a window. It has a cat or two. I work in the morning five days a week and then run errands or try to exercise. I outline. I revise as I go and then do several more drafts after that. I try to generate at least a page of small-type single space text every day, but I fail a good deal.

I love to read. I grew up loving Astrid Lindgren and Joan Aiken. Now, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, P.G. Wodehouse, Iris Murdoch, John Irving. A book by one of them, and I am set for the day.

Author Q&A

Q. Where did you get the idea for The Boyfriend List? Did you have a boyfriend list?
A. In high school, I used to keep a list of all the boys I ever kissed. There were little hearts dotting the is and everything! But when I looked for it some fifteen years after graduating, the list had disappeared.

I hoped it hadn’t fallen into the wrong hands.

And there was an idea.

It was quite a difficult book to structure, in the end. After all, a list is not a story, and with the list structure I had to tell Roo’s story completely out of order–flashing back to her middle school years, forward to events of sophomore year, forward again to shrink appointments in which the events were discussed four months after they happened, etc.

Q. Readers often wonder how much an author is her main character. Are there any similarities between you and Ruby? Did you ever lose a friend over a boy?
A. All the events of the story are fictional. The element closest to true is Jackson’s note-writing style. My first serious boyfriend used to write me notes like that and leave them in my mail cubby.

I used to live in Seattle, and the locations are largely real– the B&O Espresso, the U. District, etc. But Ruby’s parents, her houseboat, her school, her various obsessions and interests– those are imaginary.

How am I like Roo? As a teenager, I was definitely a thrift-store maven. In both high school and college I was a scholarship kid surrounded by very wealthy people. I also have Roo’s tendency to hyperanalyze small human interactions.

Yes, I have lost friends over boys–and boys to friends. I wanted to write about heartbreak on more than one level–the heartbreak of losing a friend as well as the heartbreak of losing aboyfriend.

Q. "Tommy Hazard" has struck a chord with many readers. Did you have a Tommy Hazard? What was he like?
A. Tommy was actually an afterthought. I had a chapter that was toolong and wanted to break it up, which meant I needed anotherboy–and I wanted to do something different than what I’d donein the other chapters.

I’ve been a little sad that so many girls love Tommy so much. Hello!?! Tommy Hazard and Prince Charming–neither one exists! You can’t hold out for them or you will be sad and disappointed. Or you’ll end up being the kind of girl (like Kim) who snatches other people’s boyfriends because she’s deluding herself that she’s found perfection. Real boyfriends are real people. With flaws and often without glamour.

Q. The footnotes are a fun way to convey information. Where did you get the idea to use them? How did you decide what to put in them?
A. I’ve always liked footnotes. I trained to be an academic (I have a PhD in English literature) and I loved putting huge rambling asides in my footnotes while my central argument went on unimpeded by whatever tidbit had distracted my attention. I also love David Foster Wallace’s essays, in which he uses copious and often hilarious footnotes. So I wanted to try using them to convey the inside of a teenage girl’s mind.

How did I decide what to put in them? I wrote like a zillion and then my editor helped me figure out which ones were boring.

Q. Jackson is horrible at giving gifts. What is the best gift you’ve ever received from a boy? The worst?
A. The worst: Well, the half-carnation on Valentine’s Day really did happen to me, my senior year of high school. But the worst gift ever was a USED OFFICE TELEPHONE (with several lines, etc.) that my boyfriend shoved, UNWRAPPED, under my pillow on Valentine’s Day.

I already had a telephone.

This one involved wood veneer.

It was a random thing he found in the junk room of his office!

The best: There was a guy in college who later became my boyfriend. He graduated two or three years before me, and every now and then he used to just send me a letter, chatting about stuff. On my birthday one year, he sent me this tiny pin made out of a dead fish. It was a good-looking little fish, and it had been varnished or something, and mounted on a pin. I wouldn’t wear it now, but at the time it seemed hilarious and punk rock and pretty all at the same time. It was small and it was a surprise, and I could tell he’d thought about my taste (questionable as it may have been). It worked much better than a dozen roses.

Q. Ruby loves movies, and the novel has fun movie references sprinkled throughout. What is your all-time top ten movie list?
A. I can’t put them in order. Too stressful! But here’s the list:
• Gregory’s Girl
• Repo Man
• Annie Hall
• Grease
• His Girl Friday
• Bringing Up Baby
• Cabaret
• Moulin Rouge
• Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
• Singin’ in the Rain

Q. This is your first novel for teenagers. Was there anything surprising about the process of writing it? Did you learn anything new?
A. I had a terrific amount of fun writing this book, but writing it was not so different from writing for adults or for younger kids, both of which I’ve done. I just try to write the best story I can.

Q. What were your favorite books as a teenager? Did any books or writers influence you while you were writing this book?
A. I read all the great early young adult authors when I was twelve and thirteen: Paul Zindel, S. E. Hinton, Judy Blume, M. E. Kerr. But I was more of a drama girl in high school and didn’t read as much as I had in junior high. I fell back in love with books in college, reading great nineteenth-century novelists like Dickens, Austen, and the Bronte‘s.

Writing The Boyfriend List, I was influenced by Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, which is about this guy who’s always making lists and mix tapes. He goes back and visits his major old girlfriends to try to figure out what went wrong with his current relationship. I loved Hornby’s book–it’s tremendously clever and engaging– but parts of it didn’t ring true for me. I thought there might be something fresh I could do with a similar concept.

Q. What is your writing process?
A. I write every weekday morning at my computer in my home office. A plump cat or two for company. More coffee than is good for me. I wear pajamas and look rather unattractive. I do not answer the phone, I do not clean the house, I check my e-mail only as a reward for doing my job. Sometimes I offer myself other ridiculous little rewards for writing–like: I can go out to the drugstore and buy toothpaste if I write two pages! It is borderline psychotic.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A. Go to college. Read as many books as you can. Try to get an internship at a publishing house or magazine. And write. It is very easy to say you are a writer and not write. But if you actually write stuff–then you are a writer, whether published or not.

Praise | Awards

Praise

Praise for the boyfriend list:
 
* “Spot-on dialogue and details make this a painfully recognizable and addictive read.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred
 
“Lockhart shines at depicting the all-encompassing microcosm of school social life.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Lockhart has created a fun character in the spirit of Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones….The snappy dialogue makes this story a winner.”—School Library Journal
 
“An ingenious way to look at one teenager’s life….The book is spectacular, with a well-constructed story and deep, emotional significance.”—The Romantic Times
 
“Breezy and genuine, with a tender understanding of who really walks the halls in America’s high schools. The Boyfriend List made me laugh and, yeah, I was kind of attracted to Kim.”—Ned Vizzini, author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story
 
The Boyfriend List is a wonderful comic exploration of the maddening (but hilarious) world of mothers and fathers, the gut-wrenching politics (and excitement) of multiple crushes, and the complications (and kinship) of friendship. Ruby Oliver is a winning girl (even if she doesn’t realize it) we’d all befriend in a heartbeat (as long as she doesn’t have her eyes on our guy).”—Jill A. Davis, author of Girls’ Poker Night
 
“Ruby Oliver’s list of boyfriends is a wonderful and tragic document of our times. I felt kind of bad for some of the guys on the list, but at the same time, while I read, I kept wishing I was on it.”—J. Minter, author of the Insiders series

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults


From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

WINNER 2006 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. After the Adam "debacle" in chapter one, Roo and Kim begin a notebook called The Boy Book in which they write down everything they know about boys. Have you ever started a book like this on your own or with your friends? Do you think it would be useful? What information would you include?

2. On page 41, Ruby spills her guts to Kim about Finn. Is this smart? Are there circumstances in which it’s better to keep your mouth shut? Has something like this ever happened to you–you tried to do the right thing and it backfired?

3. Ruby gives three examples of the way love works in the movies. In her example on page 64, the couples hate each other half the time but still get together in the end. In her example on page 65, the couple breaks up, but then the man realizes that he loves the woman and can’t exist without her, and they get back together and live happily ever after. And on page 198, the hopeless dorky guy who’s been there all along eventually gets the girl. Do you agree with Ruby that these happy endings don’t happen in real life? Pick one of the movies mentioned and discuss it. Does the romantic situation in the movie ring true? Can you think of other movies, books, or television shows that would fit on Ruby’s lists?

4. Ruby discovers that dating Jackson isn’t the way she thought dating was supposed to be. Have you ever discovered that your ideas about something were wrong? How was the reality different from what you had imagined?

5. In chapter six, Kim and Ruby invent the perfect boyfriend and name him Tommy Hazard. Do you have your own Tommy Hazard? Are there hazards in creating a "perfect" boyfriend?

6. After stealing Jackson, Kim tells Ruby, "When you find your Tommy Hazard you’ll understand. I honestly couldn’t help it." Doyou agree with Kim’s justification of her behavior? Does she dothe right thing?

7. Even though Noel has become Roo’s only ally, she turns on him on page 176 after he says, ". . . if those are your friends you’ve got no need for enemies." Why does this upset Ruby so much? Do you think Noel is right? Why is Ruby not yet ready to give up her old life, even though it has become the source of such pain?

8. When Kim calls Ruby a slut in class, Mr. Wallace gives a lecture on the negative effects of labels and points out that "there are no equivalent epithets for men whatsoever, and didn’t that say something about how women are viewed in our culture?" (page 177). What does it say? Can you give examples of the negative effects of labels, from real life or from movies, music, television shows, or books?

9. Ruby ends the book by saying, "I was out of the Tate universe, standing on the edge of the sea" (page 229). What does she mean by this? Is she really out of the Tate universe? Is this a satisfying ending? Do you believe that Ruby is in a better place now than when the book began? What do you think is next for her?


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