Ruby Cooper has been abandoned by her mother. This bit of information doesn’t surprise her though, her mother has always been a bit of a free spirit. What does surprise her though, is that after trying to make it on her own for the last few months, she is called into the principal’s office where police officers are waiting for her. Her landlords saw the ‘filth’ that she was living in and decided to intervene. From there, her older sister Cora is called and Ruby is taken to her sister’s home where she has made a lovely new life with her husband Jamie.
The only problem is that Ruby doesn’t feel like she fits in. She hasn’t spoken to her sister since she left for college ten years ago, feeling abandoned even back then. She wants to just make it until she turns eighteen and can live on her own again, but even that plan has problems. So against her ‘better judgment’ she stays with her sister and tries to live a somewhat normal life. It’s sort of hit and miss as Ruby tries to get acclimated to this new living situation. She finds out her sister never truly abandoned her that she has been always looking for Ruby but their mother has been keeping them apart. She makes friends with a girl from her old school Olivia and with her next-door neighbor Nate. But as she gets pulled deeper she realizes that her ‘checkered past’ isn’t the only one out there.
Both times that I have read this book, I always hate the beginning. Ruby is a very stubborn character and doesn’t accept help from others easily, if at all – in some ways, Ruby and I are a lot a like – and that really drove me crazy. Her sister is honestly just trying to help her out, give her the fresh start that she’s always wanted, and here is Ruby just throwing everything back into her sister’s face because she thinks she abandoned her and her mother all those years ago. When it’s revealed that Cora did not in fact do that, that she’s always been looking for her sister that’s when the book really starts to get interesting.
Another thing that I like about Dessen’s books? The cameo appearances by characters from her other novels, not quite sequels, but at least you get a check in every once and a while. This book had a lot of them! You get a mention of Kiki Sparks (Chole’s mom from Keeping the Moon), Barbara Starr (Remy’s mom from This Lullaby) actually turns out to be a client of Cora’s, and you get three mentions of characters from Just Listen; Annabel’s radio show, Jamie’s CD guy for Cora’s Valentine’s Day present is Owen, and Mallory shows up at Ruby’s work (although she isn’t mentioned by name). It’s fun to pick out the references every now and then.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. It seems that the intensity factor has been pushed up since Just Listen, this time instead of rape you have parental abandonment and parental abuse. Because of this, the book was a little intense at times, and made for the whole Ruby/Nate relationship to be quite odd.
Bookshelf worthy? I own the hardcover, but I want to replace it with the paperback since the dust cover keeps ripping by the keyhole.