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Literature / Ruby Oliver Quartet

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The Ruby Oliver Quartet is a series of young adult novels by E. Lockhart. It follows the high school career of Ruby Oliver, a neurotic, hyperverbal girl who starts seeing a shrink after being backstabbed by her best friend. Over the course of the series, she attempts to sort out her various issues with school, friends, family, and boys, all while trying to retain her sanity.

Books in the series:

  • The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs, and Me, Ruby Oliver
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  • The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them
  • The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, and Gideon—and Me, Ruby Oliver
  • Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated, I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver

This series provides examples of:

  • Almighty Mom: Ruby’s mother.
  • Alpha Bitch / Girl Posse: Heidi, Katarina, and Ariel make up a girl posse of alpha bitches. Kim and Cricket are eventually added.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Jackson’s younger sister Dempsey.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: During The Treasure Map of Boys, Ruby wishes that the bad feelings between her and Jackson would go away. Jackson proceeds to flirt with her at every opportunity, which messes up her truce with Kim and later causes Noel to shun her.
    • Also "Just once, I'd like to see a situation with too many guys."
  • Because I Said So: Ruby’s mother, quite frequently.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kim, though she wasn't always like this.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Boyfriend List ends with Ruby still ostracized but slowly working towards regaining her life and gaining friendships with Meghan, Noel, Hutch and Nora.
    • The Treasure Map of Boys ends with Ruby losing Nora’s friendship and ruining her reputation at school again; however, she and Noel finally begin a relationship.
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  • Brand X: Averted for the most part. While Tate Prep itself is fictional and the author occasionally takes creative liberties with certain locations in order to serve the story, she uses real places in Seattle for the story (such as the B&O).
  • Break Up to Make Up: Ruby pines for Jackson in some way, shape, or form throughout the first three books. With the help of her friends and therapist (not to mention her increasing feelings for Noel), she eventually comes to terms with the fact that Jackson was and always will be a jerk, and when he asks her out again at the end of The Treasure Map of Boys, she shoots him down cold.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Noel and Ruby.
  • California University: Averted; every college mentioned in the book is a real school, including the one that Gideon attends (Evergreen, in Olympia). The only fictional school in the series is Tate Prep itself.
  • Character Development: Ruby learns to be less passive and stand up for herself more over the course of the books, as bottling things up and obsessing over them as what lead her to getting panic attacks in the first place. She also learns to be kinder to her peers and not judge them on whether or not they're popular, particularly Meghan and Hutch.
    • Meghan becomes less dependent on Bick for her place in the social ladder at Tate Prep and blossoms without being tethered to her unappreciative boyfriend.
  • Class Trip: The latter half of The Boy Book takes place during November Week, a yearly event in which students go on various outdoor trips—like kayaking and mountain-climbing—for the week. Oddly, November Week isn’t mentioned at all in Real Live Boyfriends, despite the month of November coming and going during the book.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Noel gets this way if he thinks Ruby likes another guy.
  • Dating Do-Si-Do: Pretty much everyone at Tate, but especially Ruby.
  • Demoted to Extra / Put on a Bus: By the fourth book, a number of characters have disappeared from the series, mostly because it's primarily focused on Ruby and Noel's relationship. Kim and Cricket are hardly mentioned; Jackson has graduated and is now attending Cornell; Hutch spends the semester in Paris.
    • Cricket in particular gets this treatment throughout the entire series. Her character isn't really developed beyond her fondness for acting and the fact that she sides with Kim on the Jackson issue, and while Ruby mentions her as being part of her former friend group, the relationship between Ruby and Cricket isn't ever really addressed, whereas Ruby's respective relationships with Kim and especially Nora are analyzed a lot more closely.
    • Angelo is non-existent after The Boy Book.
  • Disappeared Dad: Meghan’s dad died when she was young; Noel’s parents are divorced.
  • Ditzy Genius: Although Meghan is an intelligent student, she never really seems to realize that almost every girl in school hates her.
    • Subverted in Real Live Boyfriends; as part of her interview for Ruby's film, Meghan discusses her previous views of popularity and her eventual realization that Ruby and Nora were the first real friends she ever had.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Various guys, like Finn to Kim and Angelo and Gideon to Ruby.
  • Drama Queen: Ruby's mother.
  • Dude Magnet: Ruby and Meghan. Both of them are a bit oblivious about it.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Ruby, especially in The Boyfriend List. This improves as time goes on.
  • Fallen Princess: Gender-flipped example with Hutch, who used to be popular, but now is the only person in Tate less popular than Ruby. He seems fine with it, though, as he points out his former friends weren't really so great.
  • Fatal Flaw: Ruby herself notes she has a bad habit of sticking her nose in other people's business, even when it would be really sensible not to do so.
    • Kim's is blowing up when someone does something she thinks is out of line, which costs her the friendship she had with Ruby.
  • Female Gaze: In the first book especially when the girls gush over how cute various boys are.
  • Footnote Fever
  • Forbidden Fruit: By the time Ruby realizes her feelings for Noel, Nora, who happens to be one of Ruby’s only friends, has already declared that she likes Noel, and Ruby is now unable to act on her feelings without risking her friendship with Nora.
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Ruby and later, Nora, to Kim and Cricket.
  • Friendless Background: Hutch, who is a 'social leper' at Tate.
  • Friends with Benefits: Ruby and Angelo hook up a few times in The Boy Book, but it trails off relatively quickly.
  • Genre Savvy: Both Nora and Cricket warn Ruby not to go to the Spring Fling with Jackson because it will only end badly. Ruby doesn't listen.
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Ruby realizes she likes Noel when Nora admits that she likes him.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Ruby with Jackson and, later, Noel.
  • Heroic BSoD: While Noel is visiting his brother in New York City, his brother's boyfriend dies in an accident right in front of him. He proceeds to push Ruby away and attempt to ignore his feelings about the matter.
  • Hidden Depths: Ruby initially judges Meghan pretty harshly, but eventually sees what a kindhearted and loyal person Meghan really is, and by the second book the two have become friends.
  • Invisible Parents: Aside from Ruby’s mother and father, most of the parents in the series are either rarely mentioned or just never seen.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In the first book, when Kim goes on a rant to Ruby about the Xerox, she mentions she never could trust Ruby about Finn, and Ruby later concedes in her inner monologue that it was true that she did flirt with Finn, even if nothing ever happened between them.
  • Karma Houdini: Kim gets away with destroying Ruby’s reputation, although she does end up getting dumped by Jackson in The Treasure Map of Boys. Plus Ruby tells her in "The Boy Book" that Jackson was cheating on her while she was in Tokyo, so Kim has to live with knowing she threw away her best friend over a boy who was never worth it. Plus, during her exchange trip to Tokyo, her host family are mean to her, leaving Kim isolated and with nobody to talk to and she realises it's exactly what she's done to Ruby.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter: Dr. Z points out to Ruby that despite her mother being all about "expressing her rage", she never really gets her own way and continues to be angry at Ruby's dad for not appreciating her enough, mirroring Ruby's relationship with Jackson. Ruby is irritated to be repeating her mother's mistakes.
  • Love Triangle: Ruby ends up in more than one.
    • Love Dodecahedron: Meghan/Finn/Kim/Jackson/Ruby/Noel/Nora. And that's without even mentioning things like Ariel and Noel hooking up, Jackson cheating or Ruby's various boyfriends. Ruby lampshades it, commenting on how small and insular Tate Prep is.
  • Lust Object: Ruby has a couple of these, mostly Gideon and Angelo.
  • Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast: Part of the point of the entire series.
  • Matchmaker Crush: Ruby attempts to give Nora advice about her feelings for Noel, despite having recently realized her own feelings for him.
  • Meganekko: Ruby, which is one of the only visual clues we have about what she looks like.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Noel thinks this about Ruby twice, once in The Treasure Map of Boys with Jackson and once in Real Live Boyfriends with Gideon. It does not end well either time.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Ruby hooked up with Shiv at a party prior to the events of the first book and thought they might start dating. It never happened, thanks to Shiv misunderstanding a conversation Ruby was having with her friends. He accepts her apology but they still don't really speak after that.
  • The Movie Buff: Ruby frequently brings up movies when discussing problems in her life, particularly romcoms, and often invites her friends out to go see them with her.
  • Not Good with People: Hutch, who is even more of a social outcast than Ruby. He does eventually befriend Ruby and Noel.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ruby gets a pretty big one in The Treasure Map of Boys when Ariel catches her and Noel kissing.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Downplayed with Ruby’s parents; neither of her parents ever seem to notice the true amount of crap that their daughter has to deal with, but Ruby's mother does bring up that Ruby has stopped hanging out with Kim and Cricket.
  • Precocious Crush: Ruby has a vague one on one of her teachers, Mr. Wallace, but it never goes anywhere, for obvious reasons.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Nora ends up as one in the second book when she goes to a party and is sitting in the hot tub whilst topless. Cabbie snaps a photo and it ends up spread around the school.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Ruby's parents.
  • Second Love: Noel for Ruby, Finn for Meghan.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Ruby is implied to have suffered this in regards to Jackson and Kim.
  • Sex with the Ex: Ruby with Jackson, though only as far as kissing.
  • Scholarship Student: Ruby and Finn.
  • Shipper on Deck: Nora for Ruby and Gideon. Meghan eventually starts doing this for Ruby and Noel, but only once it's become clear that Nora doesn't have feelings for Noel anymore.
  • Slut-Shaming: Ruby is on the receiving end of this trope. Her Boyfriend List is Mistaken for Evidence of her slutty ways, and Ruby's ex friends write graffiti about it in the girls' bathroom at Tate.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Ariel acts this way during The Treasure Map of Boys after she and Noel hook up.
  • Temporary Love Interest: During The Boy Book, Ruby hooks up with Angelo a few times. In Real Live Boyfriends, while she and Noel are broken up, she briefly dates Gideon. Of course neither of these last more than a few chapters.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted with Ruby and Meghan, both of whom are in therapy for the duration of the series.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: A chemistry class incident in The Treasure Map of Boys ends with Ruby in a wet white T-shirt and an orange bra very visible underneath.
  • What Does She See in Him?: In the first book, Ruby continually excuses and forgives Jackson for all the manipulative stuff he pulls on her and considered herself lucky to have him until she starts to wake up toward what kind of person he actually is. The feelings still linger in the second book but she's now aware that Jackson is and always has been kind of a jerk.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In-universe, Ruby complains about a guy called Billy, who kissed her and asked for her number, then never called her, wondering why you'd go to the trouble of asking for a number and then not calling it.
  • With Friends Like These...: Kim and Cricket are horrible friends to Ruby and Nora. Ruby herself can also be a pretty bad friend, although it's not at all out of malice and more because she has a tendency to get involved in things she shouldn't out of a desire to help others. Nora in the latter half of The Treasure Map of Boys treats Ruby pretty badly.
  • Your Cheating Heart: This seems to be a chronic problem with Jackson. He cheats on Kim while she's on an exchange program in Tokyo, and it's implied that he cheated on Ruby with Kim; they both obviously deny it, but Ruby eventually admits to herself that he probably did cheat.

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