The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
Publication Date: December 29, 2009
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Breakups, girlfriends, Beatles, cheating
Format read: Borrowed from the library.
Summary: When Penny Lane is betrayed and disappointed by the only guy who has had her heart, she decides to take a stand against all of this bad treatment and start The Lonely Hearts Club (based on the song by the Beatles) and stop dating until high school is over. When the club starts to accrue members and its only set of rules, the whole idea becomes something Penny could have never imagined. But soon she starts to wonder how realistic her “non-dating” rule is when someone catches her eye. Maybe not every guy is as bad as she thought…
For any girl who has been forced to reevaluate her feelings for a guy based on their nonsensical and asshole-ish behavior, this is the book for you. (Hello every girl in the world.) After Penny makes a horrifying discovery about her childhood love, she decides not to sit around and wallow but to do something about it and forms The Lonely Hearts Club. (She and her family are HUGE Beatles fans.) She vows to remain single for the rest of high school and focus on herself, and after a bit of time she is no longer a club of one.
I instantly clicked with Penny Lane. I’m actually not sure if I’ve connected with a character quite so quickly but I easily related to her being head over heels for a guy she’s known since she was young, a guy that has caused her to fantasize so much about their happily ever after that no one seems to come close. I was also disappointed by that same guy. Not in the way Penny was but it hurt like hell. (And continued to for a long time after.) I loved her go-get-em spirit and the way she took a bad situation and turned it into something bigger. In fact, there were many moments in this book where I wished I had started the same kind of group.
I was also reminded of Kody Keplinger’s book, Shut Out. Girls forming unexpected friendships when they band together for the same cause. But Eulberg took the club and the characters to new heights. They were dimensional, so far from cliche and their mission felt relatable. I could SEE girls in my high school (unlike in Shut Out) concocting this crazy plan. And it was crazy. It’s apparent once the rules are set in stone and their group gains notoriety that something’s going to blow up and go wrong. But that was a lesson these girls needed to learn for themselves. They were hurt and created something with zero flexibility to stop that hurt from happening again. They needed to get to the point where they were ready and willing to take a chance in a new relationship.
Because *newsflash* despite the duds, there were nice guys out there.
Penny is enthusiastic, strong, and brave, and I think she discovered a lot about herself once she establishes TLHC. She is able to reconnect with her ex-best friend, who had become one of those girls we hate — so into her boyfriend she loses her identity and drops her old friends. I say BRAVO to Eulberg for including this character. Because this trap that Diane fell into is JUST SO COMMON (hey, I did it too) so I’m happy to see awareness brought to this kind of issue. Diane actually turned into one of my favorite characters. While it’s important to understand a main character, I love with an author takes the time to create supporting characters who are able to leave an important impact on the reader as well. Eulberg did this many times over.
There were also a multitude of great guy characters in this book (the villainous and the good). Undoubtedly, Ryan, the ex-boyfriend of Diane and one of Penny’s good friends, is swoon worthy and epic amongst potential love interests. I don’t want to give too much away but I loved how Eulberg was able to introduce Ryan and each time it felt like a bread crumb leading to a more significant occasion.
I could probably gush about this book forever. I thought it was a true depiction of high school with characters who were so like the ones I spent my school years with. In fact, I had a huge yearning to go back to those days of planning and getting ready for dances with my girlfriends. Those were just the best times and I think The Lonely Hearts Club captured what is so important and amazing about the friendships of women. They require forgiveness, flexibility, understanding, and most of all, support.