Ruby Oliver is fifteen and has a shrink. But before you make up your mind about her, you should know that she has had a pretty awful (and eventful) past ten days. She has:
* lost her boyfriend
* lost her best friend (Kim)
* lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket)
* did something suspicious with a boy
* did something advanced with a boy
* had an argument with a boy
* 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. Through a special assignment to list all the boys she's ever had the slightest, little, any-kind-of-anything with, comes an unfortunate series of events that would be enough to send any girl in a panic.
Told in first person narrative but with Ruby speaking directly to the reader, it was very much in the same vein as Georgia Nicholson's Diaries by Louise Rennison, just as hilarious and awkward in recounting the teenage years.
The time line kind of jumps all over the place but it works, just about! As Ruby is telling the story to her therapist, we see it play out as she's recounting it, so we do sort of knowing what's about to happen but seeing all the pieces fit together is very satisfying. Through Ruby's boy history, we see how her friendships evolved, her confidence and her understanding (or more likely lack thereof) of the male species grew and how her relationships with friends, family and various boys made her the person she is.
It isn't told in a very serious manner, which works because some of Ruby's escapades are just so ridiculous that they couldn't happen to anyone else! As well as Ruby's relationships, we see how she deals with her panic attacks. I really liked how this nod towards mental health was handled, in a not so subtle but also not so serious way; not undermining them, just acknowledging they are problem to be dealt with, without blaming Ruby for having them in the first place.
All in all, a fantastic start to what will surely be a great series. I immediately went onto to book two, to follow Ruby in her insane life.
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 with 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.
In book one, we learn about Ruby's world. In book two, we learn more about her world view and how everything is not as it seems.
Kim has left for Japan, leaving her so-called true love to fend for himself, which he does by leaving mixed messages to Ruby in the form of notes in her cubby. And while Ruby is half convinced they are meant to be together, she resists his charms and gets a job in the zoo, looking after animals.
Ruby is conflicted throughout most of the book; she is learning to deal with her emotions and what leads to her panic attacks but she's also re-learning how to be a better person through this, like with empathy and not taking things for granted. I really liked this development, as Ruby desperately needed to see things for how they were, not hiding behind a mask, whether this be Jackson supposedly playing hard to get or Meghan surprisingly being smarter than she appears.
I adored book two, with Ruby learning different approaches to friendship, its excerpts from The Boy Book, and its mad mix of characters that draw out every embarrassing and heartfelt reaction for Ruby. I'm really beginning to fall in love with this series and cannot wait for books three and four in August.
Both published 14th July 2016 by Hot Key books. Thank you to the publisher for my copies in exchange for an honest review.