E. Lockhart, . . Delacorte, $15.95 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73206-2

Ruby Oliver's parents send her to a shrink after the 15-year-old begins experiencing panic attacks. Doctor Z asks her to list boys she "ever had the slightest little any-kind-of-anything with" and, as Ruby winds her way through the list, she slowly reveals what has brought her to therapy. Her basic crisis is this: after six months of dating, her boyfriend, Jackson, breaks up with her, only to go out with her best friend, Kim, the following week. When Kim confesses ("It's not like we could even help it. It's like fate"), Ruby has her first attack. Matters only intensify when Ruby winds up going to the spring formal with Jackson anyway, and kisses him (she claims "he kissed me back"). Kim exacts sharp revenge and Ruby's other friends stop talking to her; the heroine feels like she has become a "leper." The copious footnotes occasionally detract from the narration, but readers will be absorbed in Ruby's honest story. Lockhart (pseudonymous for Jenkins, author of That New Animal , reviewed above) convincingly captures the intentional—and unintentional—cruelty that comes with dating; even Ruby inflicts pain (Shiv, a popular Indian-American boy she once kissed, is hurt after he thinks she made fun of him: "I heard you... something about I smelled like nutmeg? Like you were disgusted by kissing an Indian or something"). Spot-on dialogue and details make this a painfully recognizable and addictive read. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)