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The Lonely Hearts Club


The Lonely Hearts Club

The “boy meets girl, girl loves boy, boy breaks girl’s heart” story is nothing new in teen (or adult) fiction. But imagine if said girl decides to swear off boys for the rest of high school --- and in doing so becomes the leader of a movement liberating her fellow female students from the pressures of dating, teen sex and relationships. Elizabeth Eulberg’s debut novel, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB, gives readers just this interesting twist on a familiar theme.

Penny Lane Bloom, named for the Beatles song by her Fab-Four-fanatic parents, is finally ready to commit both physically and emotionally to Nate Taylor. But on the night she plans to lose her virginity, she finds him with another girl. Angry, embarrassed and heartbroken, Penny must begin junior year without Nate. Even though she is supported in her grief by great friends and there are boys interested in her, she decides she won’t date until high school is over. They are immature liars, she asserts. And inspired by the Beatles, who she loves almost as much as her parents do, she starts the Lonely Hearts Club with herself as the sole member.

But as she shares her radical idea (no dating!) with her friends, they want to join her. They find that Saturday nights and formal dances together are more fun than with unpredictable and lustful boys anyway. Soon there are official rules of the club, Penny’s basement is filled with 30 like-minded girls every Saturday, and there’s an article about the club in the school paper. However, as the girls gain confidence and build friendships, students at the school begin to harass them. The idea that the Lonely Hearts Club members are not interested in teenage romance seems impossible.

Soon, too, the members themselves are challenged to re-think their position as the good, kind, loyal boys begin to stand out from the crowd of louts. Penny’s challenge --- sweet and cute Ryan Bauer --- is more difficult than she imagined. Not only does Ryan seem like a great guy who really likes her for who she is, he is the recent ex-boyfriend of Penny’s old best friend whom she is just getting to know again. The situation is complicated, and she thinks Ryan is clear that she is not interested in dating. But going to a concert for a Beatles tribute band seems like a date, and Penny is not sure what she thinks --- or what the club members will have to say when they find out.

Eulberg’s sweet story conveys such powerful ideas as empowerment, solidarity, identity and friendship. Some of the teenage girls here are social drinkers, and some are sexually active, yet none of them are judged for their choices in one direction or another. Instead, they are supported and taken care of by each other. The young women of the Lonely Hearts Club are strong and powerful even in moments of weakness and tribulation.

THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB is nicely written, bittersweet and tender, and Eulberg has a good feel for her heroine. There are a few moments where the teen-speak seems forced, but generally the book has a nice flow and pace. She throws in themes such as eating disorders and homosexuality, though they are merely mentioned and not explored. Fantastic, honest and fun, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB is a great first outing from Eulberg and a compelling variation of the usual teen romance. Penny and her club are funny, headstrong and, like most teenage girls, at once innocent and jaded. Eulberg captures it all so well.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 1, 2011

The Lonely Hearts Club
by Elizabeth Eulberg

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Point
  • ISBN-10: 0545140323
  • ISBN-13: 9780545140324