Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Lonely Hearts Club

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Here what it's about: After a devastating betrayal by the boy she thought she was destined to be with forever, Penny Lane Bloom (who fortunately inherited her parents’ love of the Beatles to go with her name) swears off guys and quietly starts the Lonely Hearts Club. To her surprise, many of her girlfriends are also sick of high-school guys and want to join—even Diane, Penny’s former best friend and one-half of the school’s power couple until a recent, amicable breakup. The club grows and becomes an influential social force as members meet every Saturday night, go to dances together, and support one another in their academic and extracurricular pursuits. But conflict arises when the school administration fears the group is getting too powerful and “making the boys feel bad,” and Penny finds herself torn between her no-boy pledge and the courteous advances of one of the nicest guys she knows—who happens to be Diane’s ex-boyfriend. This first novel will be a draw for readers looking for an upbeat take on friendship, empowerment, and finding romance without losing yourself.

I remembered reading that Eulberg worked as a publicist on YA books for Little Brown including promotion for Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga before turning to write full time. I had also heard great reviews of this very fun book.

Penny Lane is a wonderful heroine. She's independent, feisty, sarcastic, and smart. She's also someone I would have been friends with in high school and like much of The Lonely Hearts Club, probably would have looked up to as well. Penny does, of course, have her own share of insecurities particularly when it comes to boys. I loved, however, that she decided to swear off them rather than get even.

As readers we're able to see Penny's full transformation throughout the book but also of her friends too. Eulberg addresses issues like equal rights, parental pressures, sense of self, peer pressure, and many other pertinent issues.

I also adored Ryan. Finally we have a love interest who is, granted, very cute (not so new) but who is a normal guy. Penny isn't thinking all these crazy, steamy thoughts when he's around but, rather, trying to discern her feelings, figure out how the two might fit, and determine if she can be true to the club and to herself if she lets herself date--and love--again. Ryan on the surface seems perfect but he's quick to admit that so much of that is pressure to fit inside a mold, to get to a good college, to be who other people think he should be as if they have a better sense of him than he does. I could totally relate to this feeling and so few books in YA seem to bring it up.

There's also Penny's friend Diane. She was a great character and extraordinarily brave. She risked her social standing as a cheerleader to try out for the basketball team. Sure it may sound like swapping one extracurricular for another but it opposes the entire school's perception of her and her social reign. With the support and encouragement from her friends on the Club, however, she's able to truly explore her interests without apology and, in my opinion, made the greatest transformation of anyone in the book.

This is a super fast read and fun all around. It did come across a little more message driven than most other YA novels I've read. The messages are good, of course, and help anchor the book and originate from the Lonely Hearts Club: messages about friends coming first, not losing your identity when you're dating, etc. The book also felt a little on the younger end of the spectrum for YA though Penny and her friends are seniors.

On the whole this is an enjoyable read and if you have a daughter or a young friend in need of some summer reading then no question you have to pick this up.

What have you been reading lately?

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