The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
Penny Lane, yes, like the Beatles song, is sick of being treated badly by boys! She’s sick of her friends being treated badly by boys! She’s sick of boys! So what’s a girl to do? Form a club.
Your eyes lock from across the room, the cover, oh, it’s s’marvelous, the premise so intelligent and authentic, but wait, there’s more! The Beatles, boys, and best friends, this novel just can’t go wrong! Oh, yes, it can, it did and I’m sorry to have to tell you about it.
This book had all the right ingredients, angry girls, bad break-ups, and the Beatles! The rough outlines had to have been fabulously full of potential. I bet people heard the premise and thought, “this is going to be a story to end all dating nightmares, this book is going to bring boy-obsessed girls to their knees, and they’ll be begging to join Penny Lane’s club by the time it’s over!”, rather, they’ll be begging for it to end.
I have to give this author a thumbs down. Debut author’s are always a precarious bunch, there are those who have made a major splash in the YA literary world, and then there are those who don’t. Eulberg falls into the latter category, the category of a bad storyteller who rushed ahead without getting to know her characters, find their voice and understand that what they stand for is not surface-level material.
The dialogue in this book was choppy and I laughed all of once, though it was painfully obvious the author was attempting to crack a joke every other page. The characters melded together and were inconsistent, you never felt like you got to know them and the strangest details were thrown in randomly.
For instance, one member of the club had an eating disorder, but there was no real reference to the fact that she struggled with anything when we met her, in fact I don’t think she had more than a sentence or two of dialogue.
The main protagonist/ male hero/classic do-gooder/ football playing/heroine crushing/ex-bf of new bff/jock was so cliché it hurt, if that wasn’t evident by my foreward slashing skillz. At one point, after his sister (this kid has a sister?) knocked out a few teeth on his watch, Penny and her Dad (he was a dentist, which I’m pretty sure I didn’t know until this scene) raced to the young girls aid, handing her an ancient walrus, gauze and offering hand-holding comfort for the ashamed brother. He “Opened-up” (I.E- the author thought that adding substance at this point in the novel would be brilliant) about his family, which we didn’t know existed until now, the only references being his dead-beat dad, and we’re all shocked/riveted/*palmface* to find out that he has emotional doubts because everyone expects So. Much. From him. Oh, the agony of being perfect in a cliché high school melodrama, the horror, the literary massacre!
Then there were the ridiculous Beatles (for lack of a more intelligent word) “stuffs”. Penny Lane, her sister Rita (anyone else find it odd that Penny's Spanish name ended up being Margarita?) and her sister Lucy (who we never meet, so, I ask you, what is the point in naming her?) are all named for Beatles songs, and her parents met at a Beatles concert. Great, I love it, what a good foundation for laying the “Sgt. Pepper’s” track down! Wait, no, Eulberg, stop while you’re ahead! Oh, no.
Penny’s parents also don’t eat meat (because of Paul, not because the dead flesh once had a face or anything), they are upset to the point of distraction (they were distracting me from the main premise of the book) over Beatles cover bands, and they are basically uber thrilled over Penny’s “Beatles Club.” ‘Nuff said there.
Another thoroughly comically inept adult character was the principal. He is a sadist male who puts pressure on main protagonist boy/jock/crush/cliché by forcing him to give up one study hall a week to talk about sports, instead of discussing the things that really matter, like bake-sales and pep-rally’s. He also hates, “The Lonely Heart’s Club.” I tend to agree with him, however he gives no reasons as to why precisely he had hard feelings towards the non-violent, non-dating crew, and that sort of vagueness ticks me off kindasortamaybeIdonno.
Now, girl power aside, because I found none within the pages, let’s talk about the filthy, sucky, I-hate-you-so-bad-I-don’t-even-want-to-read-about-you-portrayed-as-a-villain-in-this-book boys. In TLHC there are two. Two, great, like this book needs these losers skulking through the pages of a perfectly wretched story! Their names are Nate and Todd. I’m not sure who I hate with more blinding, outright fury, as one goes for Penny’s flower, cheats while living under Penny’s roof, and then goes for the flower a few more times. The other goes for Penny’s wrist in an unrealistic “violent” assault while the boy who is suppose to be the hero just looks on, sits back and watches the show. Yeah, they are all three real winners in my book. After the “assault” hunky-cliché walks off hurt by something Penny says that was irrelevant to the whole plot and are you sensing a theme yet? I really hate these kind of guys, they were so fake, so evil, manipulative and gross and yet Penny’s club was not made to band against this kind of behaviour in high school, no it was made so a group of girls could sort-of stop dating and help each other with homework. The clubgirls could have discussed warning signs for bad-boys, the kind who come with cheap smiles and no hawt leather jackets, or they could have discussed why cheating is wrong, and can/should you forgive someone. However, they didn’t, instead they held a karaoke night where they sang “Stg. Pepper’s, The Lonely Hearts Club Band” and hottie-jock sang, yep, you guessed it, “Penny Lane.”
In the end Penny and Tracy reform the rules of the “Lonely Hearts Club” to allow Morgan (another two-dimensional character, no, wait, she and Penny went to a non-descriptive concert together, so she much have gotten dialogue) and Penny to each date the two guys they have eyes for. The club still stands, as long as everyone promises not to stab each other in the back, be best friend’s forever, never loose themselves and support Diana as she catapults herself from blond/cheerleader/ex-gf of cliché hottie/ BFF’s of Penny and Tracy, to a truly complex woman with deeply, sweaty dreams of being the high schools newest basketball star. A hobby, I might add, in which she perfectly timed her interest.
In the end, Mr. Perfect and Penny kiss (under the mistletoe, because why break the trend now?), like we knew they would, two-hundred and fifty pages previous.
The end (thank God)!