Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Book of Luke

The Book of Luke
Author: Jenny O'Connell
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/MTV
Release Date: April, 2007

"Nice Girl" Emily Abbott has really gotten handed a raw deal. Half-way through her senior year in high school, her parents decide to move the family from Chicago back to Boston. She's just received a letter from her first choice college, Brown, telling her she's been deferred. And on the morning that the family is scheduled to leave, her first real boyfriend, Sean, breaks up with her. Too add insult to injury, her father announces at the airport that, in fact, he's not moving with the rest of the family but rather staying behind in Chicago, to tie up some loose ends. Code for separation.

But when Emily arrives back at her old school, she finds that not much has changed. Her old best friends, Lucy and Josie, are there to welcome her back into the fold. And come to find out, they've been experiencing their fair share of boy troubles as well. In fact, Josie was just dumped - via e-mail - by hottest guy on campus, Luke Preston.

Fueled by their frustrations, the girls decide to write a guide-book for guys, a how-to-manual describing all the things boys do that drive girls crazy and how they can change for the better. Once this manual is done, the girls plan to put it in the senior class's time capsule so future generations can benefit from their knowledge.

But for some reason, Emily, Josie and Lucy determine that they need to test out their theories on a real live boy. And who better but the jerk Luke Preston? Emily is drafted into becoming Henry Higgins to Luke's Eliza Doolittle. Ostensibly, she will get Luke to fall in love with her, work her magic in changing him into the greatest boyfriend ever, then break up with him in order to add the humiliation cherry to the top of the cake.

As you can predict, this Grand Plan falls apart when Emily finds out that maybe Luke isn't so bad after all. In fact, he's actually kind of wonderful, and before she knows what's happening, Emily feels stuck between what she wants for herself and what she thinks she's supposed to be doing for the sake of her friends and for all girl-kind.
As a heroine, Emily had a great voice. She's easy to relate too, and despite all of the crap she's handed, she doesn't whine excessively. She constantly describes herself as a "nice girl", although other than spewing bits from her mother's etiquette books (her mother is a professional etiquette expert), I didn't find her any nicer or meaner than any other character.

My problem with this book is that the premise of the guide book is very flimsy. As it was described, this how-to manual the girls are writing is a list of observations of the things that boys do that drive girls crazy and suggestions to the boys on what not to do. When the threesome determine that the book needs to be "tested", I was thoroughly confused. The guide-book is not a how-to manual for girls, on things they can do to change the boys in their lives. So how was Emily supposed to "test" it on Luke?

Indeed, I never did see Emily testing Luke in any way. In fact, several times he did things she didn't like (standing her up for a dance, not calling her when he said he would), and she ignored her initial urges to call him out for acting like a jerk. Other than a handful of suggestions - like telling him to keep an umbrella in his car for rainy days and not sharing her french fries when he acted as if it were only natural that she would - it seemed Emily did most of the changing when she accepted Luke exactly as he was. In fact, the real test Emily seemed to engage in was to see if she could act in such a way as to get Luke to fall in love with her.

Too, the conflict in the book is based on a very weak base. Emily supposedly feels conflicted because 1) she's falling for Luke when she's supposed to be re-training him and 2) Luke used to date Josie and hurt Josie's feelings. If the focus of Emily's distress would have been on the fact that she'd developed real feelings for her best friend's ex-boyfriend, I would have been satisfied. As it stood, I never understood why, once she realized Luke was actually a pretty nice guy that she genuinely liked, Emily never put the brakes on and told her friends that it wasn't working.

So as the story continued, Emily's increasing conflict became more and more frustrating.

Additionally, in the end, Emily is left holding 100% of the blame when things spiral out of control. Despite the fact that the idea for the guidebook as well as the desire for Emily to be the one to test it out on Luke belonged to all three girls equally, everyone turns to Emily when it comes time to pass out blame and anger.

While this book kept me turning the pages, wondering how it would all work out, I did so with a lot of frustrations. Only Emily as a character kept me from not finishing it. I like her well enough even though I thought much of what she did towards the end of the book veered awfully close to Too Stupid Too Live behaviour. Add in a healthy dose of Big Mis that drives the conflict and I can't say that this was my favorite book ever.

Rating: Struggled to Finish
Status of Series: This is a stand-alone title

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