I wanna hold your hand . . . or do I?
After her long-time sweetheart Nate turns out to be — gasp — just another teenage boy with a wandering eye, Penny Lane Bloom is crushed. Vowing to give up dating for the rest of high school, she soon finds a sympathetic ear — or twenty — as other girls from school find their way into an unofficial union with Penny Lane. An avid Beatles fan, Penny dubs the group “The Lonely Hearts Club” and the girls quickly form a comraderie based on wanting only the best out of life . . . and knowing that no immature high school senior will be able to provide it.
Things are fine and well until the group rapidly expands to encompass many of the school’s young ladies, and guess who isn’t so thrilled about a no-dating club? All of the young men. When the school newspaper does a feature on the club and breaks it all wide open, Penny must navigate the newly-treacherous waters of dirty looks, whispering, rumors and backstabbing. And along the way, battle her own feelings toward men — and one boy, in particular. Can the queen bee of the Lonely Hearts Club actually mend her own?
I started Elizabeth Eulberg’s The Lonely Hearts Club on Valentine’s Day — when I was having an impromptu Lonely Hearts Club meeting of my own, if I’m being honest. What I found in its pages was a sweet if simple story about a teen girl learning that friendship really does have restorative properties — and that we don’t need a man to waltz in and complete our lives (though sometimes it’s fun when the guys do show up).
Penny Lane should get points for being proactive with her heart, deciding what to do with it and to whom she’s going to give it. But I felt like, as a narrator, she was a bit boring . . . and that the supporting cast of The Lonely Hearts Club, which included best friends Diane and Tracy, was weak. None of the characters stood out as individuals or felt like people I would actually know; I wanted some depth and feeling going on here. Even as the novel opens on Penny and her broken heart, I didn’t feel the jagged edges of anything. It was all saccharine, too orderly.
Where the novel failed to move me was definitely through the characterization of Eulberg’s ensemble. Even Todd, a sort of “bad boy” fellow student, failed to inspire any aggravation or distaste on my part. Ryan, Diane’s ex-boyfriend, seemed like an everyman golden boy — the one girls love for no other reason than he’s just so gosh-darn loveable. And I don’t know . . . it didn’t work for me.
But the novel isn’t bad. The plotting is fast-paced, though I had no idea where the story was going — and not in a good way. It all just seemed to meander along without any motivation or impetus. Once the club was formed, I had a hard time figuring out where the conflict was going to come from. And in the end? There really . . . wasn’t one. Not enough to form a whole book around, anyway.
Still, I don’t want to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Eulberg’s writing is fun and the novel, which functions as a coming-of-age tale, will probably appeal to young teens. For fans of the Fab Four, the frequent Beatles references, lyrics and quotes add flavor to an otherwise vanilla young adult novel.
3 out of 5!