“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought. This week’s “take a peek” book:
Love is all you need… or is it? Penny’s about to find out in this wonderful debut.
Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It’s a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there’s this certain boy she can’t help but like. . . .
I’ve read and completely enjoyed Elizabeth Eulberg’s two most recent books, Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality and Better Off Friends. When I happened to stumble across her debut, The Lonely Hearts Club, at the library this week, I thought I’d give it a try.
Elizabeth Eulberg excels at portraying the ups and downs of the high school pecking order. Her female characters tend to question the norm and make their own way. Penny isn’t a revolutionary, though — she’s just a girl who’s been dumped on and duped by one too many jerky boys. She’s not looking to start a movement, but by taking a stand for herself, she sets the stage for a lot of soul-searching.
Suddenly, the girls at school begin to realize that being with a boy who treats you badly is not actually better than not having a boyfriend at all. Penny and her small circle rediscover the value of having friends to rely on, friends who put their friends first and don’t dump them the second a boy comes calling (or texting).
It isn’t preachy, though: No one here is saying that boys are bad, or that feeling pretty and popular is shallow, or that strong girls should never flirt or care about dating. It’s really about balance, and the takeaway here seems to be that girls have the right to expect to be treated with respect, to decide whether they want a relationship or to go it alone, to pursue what makes them happy and not just what makes them popular.
One great little tidbit that you don’t get from the synopsis: Penny’s parents are Beatles fanatics. Penny’s full name is Penny Lane Bloom, and her older sisters are Rita (Lovely Rita) and Lucy (in sky with diamonds…). Mom and Dad are quirky and hip, occasionally embarrassing, but also unabashedly pro-independence and nonconformity in their daughters — so, for example, it’s no surprise that they take Penny’s side against the principal who tries to crush the club. So what if they call her “Penny Lane” in public? They’re still great parents.
A teeny example — following Penny’s disclosure that she’s in a club:
“Penny started it. It’s called The Lonely Hearts Club,” Rita chimed in.
“Oh, oh, Penny Lane, that’s so, so wonderful!” Mom put her hand up to her chest, thrilled that I’d named something after the Beatles, although she had no idea what the Club stood for. I could’ve started a club called the Yellow Submariners that went out in the ocean and clubbed baby seals and they still would’ve been proud.
“Kiddo, it’s so great you’re taking an interest in your heritage. Goo goo g’joob!” Dad beamed.
The writing is cute and clever, with snappy dialogue that never feels too over-the-top or that it’s trying to hard to be hip. The story is fast-paced, and this is a quick, zippy read.
I’d happily recommend The Lonely Hearts Club to teens, parents of teens, anyone who enjoys contemporary YA, and — of course — to Beatles fans. I understand the sequel (We Can Work It Out) is coming soon, and I’ve already put in my request for it at the library.
Title: The Lonely Hearts Club
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Publication date: 2010
Length: 290 pages
Genre: Young adult contemporary fiction