Skip to main content

The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon --- and Me, Ruby Oliver

Review

The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon --- and Me, Ruby Oliver

When I was growing up, my favorite literary character was Anastasia Krupnik, the list-making, slightly insecure, super smart, and very funny heroine of several comic novels by Lois Lowry. To me, Ruby Oliver seems like the perfect literary heir to Anastasia. She’s certainly more mature and worldly-wise than Lowry’s younger and more innocent heroine (this was the 1980s, remember), but she also shares Anastasia’s list-making tendencies, her combination of embarrassment and affection for her parents, and her tendency to worry --- a lot.

THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS is the third novel (after THE BOYFRIEND LIST and THE BOY BOOK) starring Ruby Oliver. Ruby (the daughter of a performance artist/copy editor and a container gardener) is a student at Tate Prep, a Seattle private school that she attends on scholarship. She and her parents live on a houseboat instead of in a mansion like her classmates, and she spends a lot of her time worrying about how (or even whether) to fit into the so-called Tate Universe of privilege and position that consumes many of her classmates. Actually, Ruby just spends a lot of time worrying, period, to the point that she has a tendency to have panic attacks. So she sees a therapist, Dr. Z., whose advice she finds alternately comforting and infuriating.

Ruby is also an inveterate list maker, a cinema buff and a quirky dresser (she shops at vintage stores, and is fond of the combination of fishnet stockings and combat boots). And, in THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS, which traces the events of the second half of Ruby’s junior year, she’s also very, very confused (but what else is new?) about boys. She’s fighting to understand (and control) her feelings for her good friend and chemistry lab mate, Noel. Even though Ruby suspects that her feelings for Noel (and knows that Noel has feelings for her) go beyond mere friendship, she knows she needs to keep a lid on her libido because her good friend Nora has a crush on Noel. Ruby is well aware that violating Nora’s claim on Noel would break their sacred friendship code, and after the events of sophomore year, Ruby can’t risk losing any more friends.

What’s more, Jackson, Ruby’s ex, has broken up with Ruby’s ex-best friend and seems to be paying Ruby more (too much?) attention. And then there’s Ruby’s older brother Gabriel, who finally seems to notice Ruby, who’s had a crush on him since sixth grade. When Dr. Z. assigns Ruby to make a map of her important relationships, is it any wonder that Ruby a) can’t figure out what that map should look like and b) focuses entirely on relationships of the boy-girl variety?

THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS finds Ruby a little older, maybe slightly wiser, and certainly more thoughtful than in her previous outings. She’s slowly figuring out how her own actions affect the atmosphere around her --- especially the murky waters of the small pond that is Tate Prep. She’s learning to recognize, and even celebrate, the many things that she’s good at (she would call those talents “Nancy Drews”). And she’s finally figuring out that, unlike in the movies she loves, real life isn’t set up for easy, uncomplicated happy endings --- just looking at her parents’ happy but flawed marriage reminds her of that every day.

With the help of Dr. Z. and her own self-critical mind, Ruby is slowly figuring things out. Fortunately, though, she doesn’t yet have all the answers. E. Lockhart has announced that there will be one more book about Ruby, one that readers will be clamoring for after the maddeningly inconclusive but tantalizingly promising ending of THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 28, 2009

The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon --- and Me, Ruby Oliver
by E. Lockhart

  • Publication Date: July 27, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385734271
  • ISBN-13: 9780385734271