By Laura Ruby
Eddy likes girls and sex, and doesn’t understand why they so often think it’s more than sex. He’s a jerk and a bit of a slut, but his complete obliviousness to the hurt he causes makes him somehow harder to hate. You want to hate him sometimes because he’s just too confident and so thoughtless, but he loves his little half-brother (who might be his full brother) and his parrot Tippi Hedren, who quotes Hitchcock. He likes to drive and make movies with his friends Rory and Joe. They’re currently in an MTV contest to be on a reality show called The Producers. Eddy’s life is their show, Riot Grrl 16.
Then Lucinda Dulko walks back into his life. He falls quickly and ignores the other problems in his life. Like I said, Eddy is thoughtless. He believes Riot Grrl 16 will win the contest and makes no contingency plans. He ignores his dad and other dad’s advice because he believes he knows best. He pays no attention to Joe, who has begun to explore religion. (PLAY ME briefly mentions the events of GOOD GIRLS, but no knowledge of that novel is necessary to this one. It is, however, a good read.)
I like Laura Ruby and I liked Edward Rochester. PLAY ME was less likeable. There are high points, many of them, but they’re followed by dull stretches. The different storylines seem episodic, and some move quickly while others drag. The scene where Lucinda gives Eddy a new tennis racket was vivid, tense, and foreshadowed their break-up. The scene where Eddy and the others met with MTV execs felt like a generic naïve kids meet Hollywood types and couldn’t end fast enough.
It’s painful to see Eddy come apart, because even though he deserves it and will probably be better for it, the book does rest almost entirely on his voice. To see him lose his confidence and cool is painful. But it all comes to a hopeful ending, one that could be happy if Eddy takes the chances he’s been given. Besides liking Eddy, I also liked his relationships with his family and with Gina. Meatball, his little brother, is weird without being overly precious and he makes me think of Harold from Harold and Maude, which is always a plus. Eddy and Gina’s relationship is subtle, and Ruby manages to convey quite a bit considering Eddy’s lack of anything resembling a clue, and their very real relationship is a nice contrast to Eddy’s fairy tale relationship with Lucinda.
It’s also fun to play spot-the-cultural-reference. Sometimes Ruby uses something’s real name, other times she changes it (probably for copyright purposes). However, there’s more than enough material to keep a movie fan happy. I’m glad my ex-roommate was a TCM addict. I know my Hitchcock well enough to understand the references, Vertigo being the only somewhat important one. (By the way, don’t try to watch Vertigo and do something else at the same time. You’ll have no clue what’s going on within five minutes.)
PLAY ME will entertain those familiar or unfamiliar with GOOD GIRLS. Ruby writes wonderful young adult and middle grade novels, and I look forward to her future releases. You can find more information on her MySpace, website, or blog. PLAY ME is available now.