This is one of those cases where I like the idea of the book in general, but once I sit down and read it, the course bugs me. A lot. I enjoyed parts of it, but the characterization and plotting are too problematic to ignore.For the baby step that the premise takes forward—high school girls taking the time to reevaluate and spend on themselves instead of getting and keeping boyfriends; I can swing with this—it takes two humongous steps back past where we started. Every girl in this book ends up being a stereotype and their major problems still revolve around boys. There are some good scenes sprinkled throughout, such as the Lonely Hearts Club’s first public outing to Homecoming, or the Club leading a cheer for member Diane during an important game, and I liked these scenes. They felt genuine, and I got the sense that these girls were supporting each other and having fun while doing it. But for the majority of the book, there’s a massive lack of this show of friendship that it feels like Penny’s friends are friends of convenience. It also doesn’t help that throughout the book, the positive aspects of the Club are glossed over and subject to the writerly sin of telling not showing. For example, one of the many friends in the Club is mentioned having an eating disorder/body image issues. Halfway through, it’s revealed (and I paraphrase heavily), “Oh, well, Kara’s going to a weekend-long program to take care of her 'problem.' But enough about that, Penny, let’s talk about you and Ryan.” This isn’t even touching the fact that every girl in the book is, by default, SWASP, so there’s not any mention that some girls in the club may not feel like dating boys because they like girls, or aren’t interested at all. The major conflicts that pop up are largely the product of high school sexism—it’s mentioned that the principal favors the boys’ teams over the girls’ and he reacts to complaints from the boys about the club. (Also interesting that no female teachers get in on this, now that I think about it. They’re definitely mentioned, but the only involved member of the administration is the principal.) Unfortunately, the whole sexism angle is boiled down to “Well, that’s because men think women can’t live without them!” Um…bit more complicated than that, especially since it feels like it’s stripping away years of social change between the sexes. (There’s a moment when someone calls Penny a feminist. Cue hollow laugh from me.) I kept thinking throughout the whole time I read this that Eulberg wanted to address issues like sexism, and feminism, but decided to shove the romance angle down the reader’s throats instead. The big contribution to this is the characterization. I did generally like Penny. She recognized when she screwed up, she makes mistakes and has to deal with most of them (I do wish that she would have come clean about her relationship with Nate to her parents), and she realizes that she’s grossly misjudged people. Penny’s a little hard to like initially, but throughout the book, she grows into a normal teen girl who I could seen myself have related to if I read this when I was fifteen. I also really liked Diane—she’s my favorite character mainly because she has the biggest character arc . Aside from two cringe-inducing lines (including the nonironic “I’m eating complex carbs!” Really?), I liked that she wanted to do things for herself and supporting her friends. That said, all of the other girls in book are portrayed as gossipy, vindictive, boy-obsessed with very little personality or characterization. This is not helped when Penny’s so-called best friend Tracy is characterized this way. Her reaction to Penny swearing off boys is to automatically tell her that she’s crazy and after joining the Lonely Hearts Club, declares that all of the club members will end up old maids. All of the freshman girls are nothing more than vapid stereotypes who are labeled sluts, and as I mentioned before, there’s not really a variety of girls mentioned in the book aside from medium popular and jocks. (Ethnicities and varying sexualities aside, where the hell are the unpopular girls and the nerds? We exist, damnit!) The boys aren’t much better, aside from our main love interest Ryan and one minor character, every male is a crude, perverted, budding misogynist, which is supposed to be shocking to Penny. And the whole Beatles thing is a gimmick. The beginning does show Penny as being a fan, but honestly, name-dropping names and famous song titles/lyrics don’t make the character a fan. Show me why this family loves the Beatles, not just being rabid name-droppers. (Hell, if you want to impress me, name a song like “I’m Looking Through You,” not “I Am the Walrus.”)There’s a good idea and concept to this, but it’s completely wasted. There could have been so much more that Eulberg could explore, but she just pounded out 280 pages of meebling romance while she sticks her toe into the baby-end of the issues pool. If you just want to read the mindless romcom, that’s fine, I actually did like the romance plot between Ryan and Penny. But because she does bring up and promptly ignore a lot of the larger issues that could have been explored, you’re honestly better off reading something like Sister Mischief or The Bermudez Triangle or Beauty Queens (yes, I’m still shamelessly shilling).