Friday, May 14, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club, by Elizabeth Eulberg

When Penny's lifelong crush crushes her heart, Penny swears that she is done with least until after high school is over. Curiously, she begins to notice that so many of the girls around her (friends and non-friends) have had similarly bad experiences with boys and an idea is born: the Lonely Hearts Club. The mission of the Club is to provide each other support as its members swear to be true to each other and forgo romantic attachments. Pretty soon, it's a movement. Penny can hardly believe the transformations that the young women around her undergo and could never have predicted where it all will lead.

You won't have much trouble seeing where the story is going to go (no one ever said that a romance is supposed to be suspenseful), but this novel takes an unusually interesting trip to its destination. Now, with the wisdom of age, I could easily point out to these young women that they would all be much happier focusing on their friendships and spending less time in messy romances (and given the selfishness and inexperience of your typical adolescent, does anyone expect the romances to be anything other than messy?), but it's fun to see a group of girls figure this out for themselves. And if the story inspires some real-life teens to take charge of their lives and empower themselves, so much the better!

As for the story itself, it's hard to dislike a book with such a winning heroine. Penny is strong and opinionated, but she backs up her convictions. She can be shy and occasionally have a lapse of judgment, but she really is the kind of person that you would want as a best friend. My one grievance with the book is the unevenness of the story telling. For every strong section (some of the more caustic observations about boys had me rolling in laughter from pain self-recognition) there are painfully weak sections (the Principal, for example, is a throwaway and a pointless addition to the story, as in fact are all the bad guys). Eulberg has a terrible problem creating realistic motivations for her characters, instead making every villain a bad guy simply on the basis of being shallow. Every kind person is just doing the decent thing. And Eulberg quickly runs out of original ways for her characters to express emotions (affectionate or combative). To compensate for this problem, I coped by glossing over the more embarrassingly poorly-written sections. Thankfully these are few!

Overall, this is great fun. It's grl power stuff and obviously intended to be secretly shared by female readers, but I think boys could read it without getting cooties or having their manhood excised. And maybe they could learn a bit about how to avoid being such creeps!

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