This book is the fourth in a series and therefore this review will inevitably contain spoilers for the first book, The Boyfriend List, the second, The Boy Book, and the third, The Treasure Map of Boys.
Ruby Oliver is nearly out of the Tate universe! Just one more year to go, and it would be a breeze, if she could control her panic attacks. She knows what she wants to study at university, and she knows what boy she's in love with. Noel is now her real live boyfriend.
Until he becomes a pod-robot.
Real Live Boyfriends was a lot sadder and a lot more serious than any of its predecessors in the Ruby Oliver series, however, it was also much more funny. I actually laughed out loud several times and if you'd like a preview of the hilariousness (and also, the sadness), check out this video of E. Lockhart reading from one of the early chapters:
Real Life Boyfriends is about the reality of romantic relationships and the nature of love. But it's also about pygmy goats, financial woes, dramatic parental reactions, movies, lists (mostly of movies), and above all, friendship.
I especially liked the way that Ruby's views on the last item on that list, friendship, develop. Ruby has been, up until now, a girl obsessed with her own social status. Even before she became a 'social leper and famous slut', she was very aware of where she fitted in. Her group with Kim, Nora and Cricket was not really popular, not really cool, but not on the fringes either. Since the debacle of junior year she's had to decide a) where she fits in, and b) whether she actually cares about the opinions of most of the other students at Tate Prep.
Towards the end of The Treasure Map of Boys, Ruby got over Jackson for once and for all, delivering a putdown that you know I loved if you highlighted the text at the bottom of my review, and that helps set her free. In Real Live Boyfriends Ruby interviews her friends to find out how they would define love and/or friendship for her film project, and the answers she gets clearly influence her decisions and self-esteem.
I loved the way all the characters developed in this novel, with the except of Ruby's mum, Elaine, she just goes scarily off the rails. But Noel, Hutch, Nora, and especially Meghan develop into ever more rounded and grown-up people. In the previous books, we've mostly known Meghan only from Ruby's impression of her and what Ruby says everyone else thinks about her, but in this one, she really comes into her own. I think Meghan becomes a GODDESS in Real Live Boyfriends, I really do.
Meghan and Ruby's scenes are my favourites, along with the really cute scene with Noel and Ruby at the start of chapter three. Oh, Noel. As I say in a slightly different way in every Ruby Oliver book review, be real and eight years older and my real live boyfriend, please.
If I said anything about the ending of Real Live Boyfriends I'd spoil it but I thought it was appropriate for Ruby's character and I was mostly just sad that the Ruby Oliver Quartet had come to an end. I really have loved reading this series and the lessons Ruby learns throughout have made a real difference to the way I see the world. The Ruby Oliver books will probably remain one of my favourite series for the rest of my life.