Friday, September 11, 2009

Gold digger

Here's another novel about a girl who obsesses about boys, but I didn't mind listening to it nearly as much as I did the one with the vampire angle. The Treasure Map of Boys - Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon -- and Me, Ruby Oliver is the third book from the talented E. Lockhart about the romantic travails of Tate Prep student -- funny, articulate, neurotic --Roo.

In her first book, The Boyfriend List, Ruby ends up in therapy for panic attacks when her first boyfriend breaks up with her in order to be with her (one-time) best friend, and her reputation ends up besmirched on the bathroom wall. The books -- and Ruby's adventures -- that follow are all about how she tries to figure out how to find friends (of all sorts) and cope with life as a scholarship girl/outcast at exclusive Tate Prep. Ruby mostly has her eyes open about herself, but that doesn't stop her from continuing to make mistakes. More importantly, she can find the humor in those mistakes. She's an entirely engaging storyteller.

In The Treasure Map of Boys, Ruby struggles with her feelings for a "nice" boy named Noel, but one of her two remaining friends at Tate has told her that she likes Noel too, and Ruby -- abiding by the code of The Boy Book -- resolves to keep her hands off. Alack, or Ag! as Ruby says, she cannot, and heartbreak and misunderstanding ensue. At the same time, she loses her job at the Woodland Park Zoo and convinces her parents that her therapist recommended she get a Great Dane. I think you may have to read it in order for it all to become clear.

I have two confessions:
  • (Because I'm compulsive) I read the first two books in this series last month. I think it was too much Ruby Oliver at one time. I was a bit bored by her by number three.
  • Despite her considerable skills as an audiobook reader, narrator Kirsten Potter is not well-suite to Ruby's narrative style.

I listened to Potter read If I Stay earlier this year, and I said I liked her performance. But, after listening to Treasure Map and thinking about both books, I just can't get my ears around the fact that she sounds too old to be reading teen literature. There's a formality and maturity in her voice that belies her teenage narrators. Potter reads passionately and with lively variation; she finds and exposes the humor in a story. She invests personality into almost all the characters she reads, but she doesn't sound like a teenager. She seems poorly matched to her material in the case of young adult fiction.

Still, that's not a reason to avoid this book. Exposure to Ruby is no hardship (perhaps in smaller doses). Like her predecessor (I guess she's more of a descendent, actually), the inimitable Frankie Landau-Banks, she's the kind of teenager you want to share a cappuccino with.

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