Author: Sarah DessenRuby is fine. Really, she is. Or at least that's what she tells everyone, including herself. But when her mother takes off and she has to fend for herself, and things don't go so smoothly, Ruby is sent to her sister, Cora, who left Ruby and her mother years ago to make her own life. Now Ruby is ripped away from everything she knows and is planted in a world of mansions and backyard ponds, private schools, and - worst of all - nice, polite relationships.
Author's Website: sarahdessen.com/
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Genre: Contemporary YA
The beginning of the book, when Ruby narrates her previous life and how it's horrible and terrible that she has to give it up and move in with her sister and brother-in-law, is so matter-of-fact about the conditions she considered normal, and even preferable, that it's heartbreaking. It definitely sets things up for the way she behaves as the story progresses - why she reacts to certain events in the ways she does, why she has such difficulty trusting others and letting others in.
This story, contrary to what the flap copy says, is not about a girl living a perfect life, or about Ruby finding out about a neighbor's problems. It's about the true meaning of friendship and family. And that is so beautifully woven throughout the story - in more obvious ways via the English assignment Ruby has to do, in more subtle ways via the various interaction between all the characters.
And the way Ruby comes to realize what true family and friendship is about, what real relationships mean, is a realistic portrayal of how a real person grows and matures. She faces uncomfortable and painful truths, she makes impossible choices, sometimes split-second choices that have huge ramifications, she goes astray and messes up more than once. But through it all, she slowly cracks and allows others in, reluctantly at first, screaming and kicking, but eventually learning that perhaps this is the better way, and then welcoming and even pursuing real relationships.