Book Review: Real Live Boyfriends

A real live boyfriend does not contribute to your angst.

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart is the fourth and final book in the Ruby Oliver series. I was really looking forward to this book because I love me some Ruby Oliver.

What I Liked

– As I said above, Ruby Oliver. She’s funny and neurotic and kind and boy crazy. She’s also super smart and thoughtful and reflective.

– Meghan. I am claiming Meghan as one of my literary girlfriends. Also, I have realized that when it comes to literary girlfriends I have a type. They are frequently beautiful and kind of clueless, but in a good way. I don’t care. I love her. Her honesty and lack of pretense is refreshing. And I just…I love her, okay?

– Lockhart always explores female friendships really well in these books, and I really enjoyed the way the Nora situation is handled. I also, of course, love that Ruby values Meghan as a friend. Plus, the Hutch/Ruby friendship is explored in this book as well, which pleases me. I like learning more about the boys in Ruby’s life.

– There’s also some good stuff with Ruby and her parents. It’s obvious why Ruby is such a neurotic drama queen when we witness her mother in action. Plus, I thought the way Ruby’s parents understand each other even though Ruby doesn’t understand them is shown really well.

– Even though Ruby is boy crazy and obsessed, I do like that she has other interests, but it’s just that her interpersonal relationships are what consume her.

– My favorite scene is probably the bit with Ruby and Nora in the bathroom. I won’t spoil it, but I will just say that it’s something that needed to be said and hammered home, and it’s so organic and awesome. And AWESOME.

What I Didn’t Like

– Let’s just get it out of the way right now. I HATE THE NEW COVERS. Ugh. It is hard for me to tell whether or not I would pick up the books based off the covers now because it’s too late, but…I really just hate them. The girl is nothing like I picture Ruby, plus the first book makes a point of not describing Ruby too much because it doesn’t matter. But whatever. There’s nothing I can do about it except complain on the internet. In all caps.

– This book is TOO SHORT. It felt more like a novella or one of those 1/2 books Meg Cabot did for the Princess Diaries series. I wanted to spend more time with Ruby and her friends in Tate.

– I also wasn’t completely satisfied with the resolution, but that’s only because I needed more information about where everybody ends up. It’s the last book! I need a little more!

In conclusion: The book is in line with the other Roo books: funny, engaging, heartbreaking. I just wanted it to be longer since it’s the last book ever.

Support Your Local Library: 5/30; YA Challenge: 4/20

Book Review: The Man in My Basement

“Sometimes,” he said and then hesitated, “sometimes an opportunity can show up at just the right moment. Sometimes that opportunity might be looking you in the face and you don’t quite recognize it.”

Oh, Walter Mosley. I am beginning to think that you and I are just not cut out for each other when it comes to your high concept, non-mystery work. The basic premise of The Man in My Basement is a white man, Bennet, asks Charles Blakey–a black man–if he can live in Blakey’s basement, but Bennet wants more than to just live in the basement: he wants to be imprisoned there.

I had two major problems with the book.

1. The book feels as though it’s trying to be deep. I don’t really like to work for meaning when I read. By which I mean, yes, I am an Englishist by trade, and I am used to, as Joan Bauer would say, pulling meaning from a stone. However, I hate reading a book and feeling like I should be making meaning out of what is there. That I should be actively overthinking as I read instead of the book just being awesome and me just feeling like there’s something more. I don’t even think any of that makes sense, but it makes sense in my head. Basically, the whole time I was reading, I felt like I was missing something that was totally obvious and that the book was trying so hard to be deep, yet I was swimming in shallow water. Blergh.

2. The other big problem I had is the main character. I just didn’t care for him, didn’t like him, didn’t really understand why this story needed to be told. He’s unlikable and surrounded by unlikable characters. There was no one for me to latch onto, and characters are my thing. I can forgive a lot for awesome characters.

The one thing the book does have going for it is that Mosley is a master storyteller. Even as I had all of my feelings about the book, it was still immensely readable, and it was easy for me to get pulled into the world of the story when I picked the book up. But this book was a total bathroom book, and even then I read a magazine or another book before I finished this one.

Quirky Brown: 2/3; POC Reading Challenge: 4/15; Off the Shelf: 2/5


Book Review: One Crazy Summer

I wished I hadn’t opened up that newspaper. I wished I could go right on thinking we were having breakfast, painting signs, and learning our rights. I wished I didn’t know that I was marching my sisters into a boiling pot of trouble cooking in Oakland.

I can’t decide if I like One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia so much because it’s a really good middle grade novel about a girl who spends the summer trying to get to know the mother who abandoned her or because it’s a book about a girl who spends the summer at the Black Panther Party summer camp.

I mean, I really cannot decide. Because it is so hard for me to separate my love of the Black Panther Party from the rest of the novel, and the fact that this book is written, basically, about the experience of participating with the Panthers as a child just…I can’t even put it into words.

The setting and premise are awesome is what I’m trying to say.

It’s hard for me to talk about the book itself because I really want to just go off on a tangent about how into the Panthers I was in college. I think to understand how into them I was you need to know that when I went to Oakland two summers ago, I was really super bummed that I didn’t have enough time to take the Black Panther tour.

Really super bummed.

But this isn’t about me. This is about the book. One Crazy Summer, while about a girl’s experience at the summer camp, is more specifically about eleven-year-old Delphine, and the trip she takes to get to know her mother. I always have a problem talking about well-written books because there’s not much to say except: this book is good. The characters are well-drawn, the setting and tone are pitch-perfect, and the relationships are all clear as is the thread of conflict throughout those relationships.

One of the things Williams-Garcia does well is mention key historical moments about the Party without overexplaining. It’s more of an invitation to find out more. What is COINTELPRO? Who is Li’l Bobby Hutton? What happened the night he died? (I don’t think she mentions Eldridge Cleaver, but he was there. So: who is Eldridge Cleaver?) Why do they call the cops “pigs”? It also doesn’t come up that the FBI thought the Free Breakfast Program was the most dangerous aspect of the Panther’s activities, but it’s easy to see why Hoover wanted it shut down immediately. (Also, did you know that’s why schools serve breakfast now? You can thank the BPP for that.)

Probably the best thing about the book (aside from Delphine, and, of course, the BPP) is Delphine’s mother, Cecile, and the complicated relationship she has with her children. As an eleven-year-old, Delphine’s understanding of her mother is perfectly rendered. As an adult reader, I appreciated that the reason Cecile left is as simple and complex as the fact that she couldn’t name her youngest daughter. Something Delphine doesn’t quite understand–nor would a reader in her age group–but that I can imagine her thinking about over and over as she becomes an adult.

I also enjoy we get an East Coast perspective of the Party as well as, through Delphine’s narration, how older black people (like her grandmother) see the Party.

So what I’m saying is I really enjoyed the story on its own terms. And I love, love, love that cover.

Now that that’s out of the way…


Can I talk about my experience with the Black Panthers now? Basically, my gateway drug was Assata: An Autobiography. (And thinking about it, I really probably should have named my daughter Assata because THAT IS HOW MUCH I LOVE THE BOOK. And Assata. SHE IS SO BADASS AND I LOVE HER.) I read that in an intro African-American studies class and immediately wanted to know more. So I signed up for a seminar on the Black Panthers where we read pretty much all of their autobiographies and seminal works. We discussed their philosophies and their complicated relationships. We read books related to them. I forced my friends to watch Panther with me. It was pretty intense.

So, some books if you’re interested in learning more about the Black Panther Party in their own words:

Also did you know that Jesse Jackson got his whole Rainbow Coalition bit from Fred Hampton, leader of the Chicago Panthers?


(Fred was, tragically, assassinated by the police–there are pictures of them carrying his body out and smiling–as he lay in bed next to his pregnant girlfriend who did not incur a single bullet wound. SERIOUSLY.)

And we all know that Huey from The Boondocks is named after Huey P. Newton. So.

*****draws hearts around the Black Panther Party*****

Quirky Brown Challenge: 1/3; Support Your Local Library: 4/30; POC Reading Challenge: 3/15