I said weeks ago that I was going to write a blog post about the E. Lockhart series I was reading. I got all four of them for Christmas, and I’ve been fighting the urge to devour them ever since.
To begin, let me say that E. Lockhart is a fabulous writer. She writes with such honesty and wit and complete understanding of how a teenager’s mind works. In the Ruby Oliver series specifically, she uses footnotes to expound on the knowledge of her main character and provide extra resources and humor for the reader. She uses lists in a way is that is just brilliant, and she makes the act of keeping a diary and undergoing therapy fresh. I find that last bit really difficult to believe, even after I’ve read the books.
Emily Jenkins in all her glory!
Emily Jenkins, or E. Lockhart, has a brilliant way of taking a plot that should be cliche and twisting it just enough to make it unlike anything you’ve ever heard of. (Susie says Gayle Foreman does the same thing. So, check her out, too.)
Basic premise: Ruby Oliver is a girl that has panic attacks caused by stress brought on by her relationships, with boys and with her friends. To combat these attacks, the therapist has her keep a diary and begin making lists so she can organize her feelings and reactions better. It’s basically a way for Ruby to understand her own thought processes and the sequence of events her actions can bring. That’s something we’ve all heard before, right?
But her therapist is a little awesome. Ruby has to make a list of all the boys she has ever been in a relationship with, real or imaginary, to see where her problem of Boy Mania has come from. She has to make a visual map of relationships at one point, too. All things that, in the wrong hands, could be a very bad idea.
All of the conflicts in this series are organic to the material. I never felt like Lockhart was forcing her drama along or stretching it past where she needed to. Ruby spends most of the series trying to walk the fine line of being a good friend and getting what she really wants–A Real Live Boyfriend.
Onto Ruby Oliver, the character: Ruby is a teenage girl on scholarship, a movie-lover who wears fishnets, a coffee drinker who works at a zoo, a chronic list-maker who has boy drama coming out of her pores. Roo is the daughter of a blogging gardener and a food-crazed actress who live on a house boat. She has strange friends and a candor that I almost envy. If Ruby Oliver, or Roo, were a real person, we would be friends.
And maybe that is Emily Jenkins’ greatest achievement as a writer. Even when I get frustrated with her characters, with their decisions and actions, I never stop feeling for them or wanting to know more about them. I want to be their friend.
And, hey, I probably wouldn’t mind being Emily Jenkins’ friend either.
If you want more Roo, read the story about the bake sale. Or, if you’re looking to read more E. Lockhart, try the always-recommended Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.