Surveying Series: Ruby Oliver


I like trying to come up with new features to keep things interesting and to keep readers interested, and the latest happens to be a great way to give more attention to books I’ve already read. With Surveying Series, I plan on looking back at older series that I’ve read all of the books of and talking about different aspects of them. Ranking the books, favorite quotes, favorite characters, imagining sequels or spinoffs – anything and everything pops into my head! I don’t know yet if this’ll be a success or not (and when I say that, I mean with me, although your thoughts are definitely really important!), but hopefully this’ll be a new, fun, and regular feature hear on The Reading Shelf!

Anyway, for my inaugural post, I thought I should focus on one of my favorite series: E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver quartet (is anyone who’s read this blog a lot really all that surprised?)! And, be warned, since this is a series review of sort, there might be spoilers – so be careful if you plan on reading this books in the future.

The Books

Ruby2First: The Boy Book (#2)

I’m not quite sure why this book is my favorite. I like them all, really, so even the book at fourth place is really high in my book. There are just some things that happen in this book, like the increased presence of Noel, the strengthening of friendships, especially with Meghan, and… OK, this book also has my favorite cover. Yes, I like shallow things sometimes! My reasons are my reasons!

Anyway, I just like this book a lot. I can’t remember quite what happens, but looking at the summary, I see some entertaining things such as the school trip, the introduction of The Boy Book, the secret about Noel – and those are just the things that the summary mentions! There are plenty of reasons to like this book, and it just inches ahead of the other books to take the lead.

Ruby4Second: Real Live Boyfriends (#4)

We’re just skipping around everywhere here! Anyway, there are plenty of great things about this book as well. There’s Ruby and Noel together, family drama, and just the amazing end of the series in general. There are sad moments, especially with the death of Ruby’s grandmother (her father’s mother) early in the book, but they don’t destroy the quirkiness and loveliness that is a Ruby Oliver story.

And the ending was pretty much perfect, in my opinion. I wouldn’t mind reading more Ruby adventures, but the ending was the type where I also don’t mind being done with the series. It began and ended on top for me.

Ruby3Third: The Treasure Map of Boys (#3)

Things continued to be difficult for poor Ruby in the third book, but she persevered through it all. She ran a successful bake sale that makes me want to go and bake right now, she successfully dealt with the frustrating Jackson, and she mostly untangled her life by the end of the book.

The ending in particular made me very, very happy – looking at the previous book on this list, you might be able to figure out why…

Ruby1Fourth: The Boyfriend List (#1)

Just because it’s last doesn’t mean it’s bad. Far from it. This introduction to Ruby Oliver and her difficult life is great, and kept me interested in the whole thing from start to finish. Ruby may be at her youngest and most inexperienced during this book, but that just means she shows such growth by the end of it, especially in her understanding of exactly who she is.

I think the main reason this book is at the bottom of the list is due to its very story, particularly how it involves a certain someone: Jackson. And Kim, don’t forget Kim. Ruby made mistakes, sure, but the way she was treated, especially the way Kim twisted things so that she seemed like the sole victim, often made me mad on Ruby’s behalf. I wanted to reach into the book, grab Jackson, Kim, and Cricket, and give them all a good shake and tell them to stop trying to ruin poor Ruby’s life. I wanted to slap every girl and guy who made rude comments or suggested that Ruby was a slut simply because she liked boys and had the slightest bit of experience.

But that’s probably the only reason this book is at the bottom, because I seriously loved it as much as the rest. As I’ve said, an amazing series from start to finish.

The Quotes

“My problem is I can think whatever I think – girl power, solidarity, Gloria Steinem, rah rah rah – but I still feel the way I feel.
Which is jealous. And pissy about little things.”
The Boyfriend List

“Other people apologize and don’t mean it. ‘Sorry, but you shouldn’t have…’ or ‘Sorry, but I just didn’t…’ They apologize while telling you that they were right all along, which is the opposite of an actual apology.”
The Boyfriend List

“Because on some level, even though it never turns out to be true, and even though I should know better, I still expect life to be like the movies.”
The Boy Book

“On the other hand, it’s like we’re three years old. You don’t want that scruffy old teddy bear until your friend takes it and starts having a good time with it. Then suddenly it’s the cutest bear you’ve ever seen, and you want to get it away from her.”
The Boy Book

“Absorbing the fact that sometimes, people do cut you slack and forgive you and want you anyway. Sometimes they do. And when they do, even if it’s not a happy ending, it is delicious.”
The Treasure Map of Boys

“I know they’re not getting divorced or anything, but when your parents argue it makes the whole universe seem like it’s tipping, like everything could change if they got mad enough at each other, like the world isn’t a safe place.
And of course, that’s true, isn’t it? The world is not a safe place.”
The Treasure Map of Boys

“Also, I was living in the middle of my parents’ marriage. No one ever says this about families, and maybe people who aren’t only children don’t even notice it, but half the time I feel like this extra person watching them have a marriage. They fight, they kiss, they discuss the in-laws, they do projects, they take down the Christmas tree and reminisce about things I don’t remember, they fight some more – and it’s all this personal stuff that I really have no business witnessing, except I have nowhere else to go because I live here. I’m just trying to eat my dinner and instead I’m in the middle of this grown-up relationship that is complicated and disgustingly mushy and sometimes angry.”
The Treasure Map of Boys

“I can’t forget things, or ignore them – bad things that happen… I’m a lay-it-all-out person, a dwell-on-it person, an obsess-about-it person. If I hold things in and try to forget or pretend, I become a madman and have panic attacks. I have to talk.”
Real Live Boyfriends

“Maybe a friend is someone who wants your updates. Even if they’re boring. Or sad. Or annonyingly cutesy. A friend says, ‘Sign me up for your boring crap, yes indeed’ – because he likes you anyways. He’ll tolerate your junk.”
Real Live Boyfriends

You can’t have an ending. It’s impossible. Because unlike in the movies, life goes on. You’re never at the end until you die.”
Real Live Boyfriends

“Love is when you have a really amazing piece of cake, and it’s the very last piece, but you let him have it.”
Real Live Boyfriends

“The movies make the brooding guy the hero – the guy with problems, the guy who carries a gun, the guy with unresolved anger, the guy with a chip on his shoulder, the guy who’s a vampire – and they tell you that you can have the mythical happy ending with that same brooding guy.
But in reality, the brooding guy is cranky. He doesn’t reply to emails. He doesn’t call. He’s only half there when you’re talking to him, and he doesn’t chase you when you run. You feel insecure all the time. You get needy and sad and you hate yourself for being needy.
If you don’t know why he’s brooding, you’re shut out.
And if you do know why he’s brooding, you’re still shut out. (Because he’s busy brooding.)
Real Live Boyfriends

“Love is when you give someone else the power to destroy you, and you trust them not to do it.”
Real Live Boyfriends

The Characters


Sure, the main character is always going to be the most complex and fleshed out character of them all, but Ruby seems particularly complex and interesting, at least to me. Ruby isn’t the perfect person – she isn’t a Mary Sue, she isn’t a cardboard cut-out. She’s insecure, she’s neurotic, she’s romantic, she’s obsessive… she has traits both good and bad, and she has moments both happy and sad, all well earned. Sometimes she does things that are dumb, sometimes you want to give her a huge hug. She begins to get comfortable with her sexuality at the end of the first book, and she likes things both girly and not. She isn’t a one-note character – she feels like a real person, and she is definitely my favorite character out of all the amazing characters.


He definitely has his issues – see the above quotes about angsty dudes, because this is who she’s talking about – but he has plenty of great qualities as well. He does plenty of things that are adorable and such, and I like his relationship with Ruby, romantic or not.


Poor Meghan – at the beginning of the first book, she’s practically treated as badly as Ruby, but she seems to hide it better. Yes, Meghan is more sexual and open than most girls her age, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to look down on her and to push her away, like pretty much every girl at their school does. I love her friendship with Ruby, which had a bumpy road in the first book, and I love the way Ruby began to notice how her subtle slut-shaming of Meghan was such a problem.

Mr. and Mrs. Oliver

I’m counting this as one character because they just work so well together. They’re a real couple – they have their arguments and fights and such, and their relationship can get quite rocky in the fourth book, but they’re always real. They work together well, and we get to watch their marriage through Ruby’s eyes. They mess up sometimes, but they always care about their daughter – they even get her a giant dog!

John “Hutch”

I liked the fact that Ruby had this platonic relationship that slowly turned into a friendship over the course of the books. Hutch was definitely a unique character and it was interesting to see him in scenes. At the beginning of the first book I never knew that I would be sad when he went to study abroad in the fourth book.

The Romance

There isn’t just one romance for Ruby. She’s a pretty normal teenage girl – she has crushes on different guys, little flings that didn’t really go anywhere, and a few real, longer-term relationships. My favorite relationship she has is the main one with Noel of course, but I really like the huge variety. There are books where the MC has no experience until the special guy shows up (yet they’ve all had random kisses before, which rarely seem to fit with their characterization, but now’s not the moment to complain about that), and it’s not just limited to the less realistic paranormal genre – there are contemporary books that are like that as well. Ruby is different, though – it’s kind of ironic, since I can’t really relate to her, yet I love the fact that she has all these different romantic experiences and relationships. I don’t like all the guys that Ruby is interested in – I mean, Ruby doesn’t always like them that much, at least after the relationships are over – but they felt real and interesting. And there are plenty of cute moments to read about, if that’s your favorite thing about romances in books.

So, overall, the romance is these books are top notch.


The Spin-Off

I’m really, really happy with how the fourth book ended, but if there were to be a spin-off or companion book/series, I’d really be interested to see Ruby in college, far away from the people who made her life difficult before but not far away from the problems she manages to cause herself. I wouldn’t want any romantic issues other than minor spats that end in adorable scenes. I’d like to see how Ruby’s parents deal with an empty nest, how Ruby keeps up her friendships, and what the amazing characters of the books plan on doing with the rest of their lives. No pressure on them, of course.

The Music

Marina & the Diamonds – “Sex Yeah”

If history could set you free (from who you were supposed to be)
If sex in our society (didn’t tell a girl who she would be)
‘Cause all my life I’ve tried to fight what history has given me

Kelly Clarkson – “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”

You think you got the best of me
Think you’ve had the last laugh
Bet you think that everything good is gone
Think you left me broken down
Think that I’d come running back
Baby you don’t know me, cause you’re dead wrong

Christina Aguilera – “Beautiful”

Every day is so wonderful
Then suddenly it’s hard to breathe.
Now and then I get insecure
From all the pain, I’m so ashamed.

So, I hope that you enjoyed this new feature! Feel free to suggest any other things you’d like to see in future installments!


4 thoughts on “Surveying Series: Ruby Oliver

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