I am not sure why, but this book took me completely by surprise. The reviews for this book rated it highly and I knew the narration was reported to be fantastic. But I still got my socks knocked off. This book hooked me from the beginning. What this book is about at its core is a young girl (sophomore in high school) navigating the social mine field of high school and trying to make sense of her female friendships and her relationships with boys. The setting is perfect – a private school, a scholarship student, a boat house for the main character’s home, some very involved, loving but extremely quirky parents, and lots of mistakes, missteps and misunderstandings. All together, it makes a book that is incredibly funny and enlightening. E. Lockhart really really really hits on what it is like to be a 15 year old girl. Relationships with other girls are so intense at that age, love affairs in a way – but they can be treacherous. And relationships with the opposite sex is a complete mystery, every step brings a new learning moment. This book could just be light and funny and it is definitely that. But it also has serious character growth that brings readers along for the ride. Through Ruby Oliver’s examination of her boyfriend list, she examines what it means to be a true friend, what is the meaning of popularity, how girls get labeled slut, the true actions of betrayal, and that it feels good to have one’s boobs fondled. Yup, all important topics. E. Lockhart has a serious talent of leading Ruby and the reader down the path of enlightenment but doing it in a very fun way (for the reader, for Ruby it is actually quite painful and embarrassing) so that it doesn’t feel like I was learning. Side note, there is even a beautiful feminist discussion on the effect of labeling a female, how men do not get labeled in a similar way, and why this is -- E. Lockhart does this brilliantly by having a teacher discuss this topic in a class presentation, so that it does not come off preachy at all. I have a soft spot for this particular issue and I thought it was really well handled. What was surprising for me was that I ended up identifying with both Ruby Oliver (the lead in this story) and her parents. I hope that I am not quite as boundary ignoring, invasive and quirky as Ruby’s parents were but through them I saw two people who truly loved their daughter and wanted to stay involved in her life. I saw myself talking to my teenager, trying to appear (hopelessly I am sure) cool, try to convey love and yet respect those important boundaries. Raising a teenager is such hard work. This book is a tad bit mature for my 12.5 year old but in a few years I cannot wait for her to read it and then I will ask her, “How did this make you feel?” And she will roll her eyes and walk away. But I will smile, because in a way we will have shared a moment. I recommend this book for anyone who has been a teenager, who has a teenager, and who likes to laugh.