“But when hatred shows its face, you need to make a little ruckus.”
Published: Expected April 9, 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 320 (Kindle)
Series: N/A – Standalone
I’m pretending so much – hiding the Jewish situation along with my general New York neuroses – someone should give me a Tony.
A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.
After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.
Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.
Hey friends! Do I have a great review for you today! I don’t generally feature YA fiction on my blog much, I tend to read more adult novels now, but sometimes I do get a really good YA that comes across my desk and today is that day! I want to thank Algonquin Young Readers for reaching out to me and offering not only the eARC for this beautiful debut but also for the chance to be a stop on the blog tour! If you’re interested in reading an excerpt of this novel before or after my review, you can see that here!
I just want to start off by saying that I borderline loved this book. I devoured it. It may have been my current read for six days, but I read 50% of this book in one day. It’s so compulsively readable and while it tackles some heavy hitting topics it’s a really easy and immensely enjoyable read. I basically couldn’t put it down, I just kept reading and reading, it was so good and so fun and I needed to know where it was going. I can’t stress enough how readable this book is, it flows so smoothly it’s entirely possible to read in one sitting.
In the Neighborhood of True follows Ruth Robb as she moves back down South with her mother and sister after the death of her father. This is a historical fiction that takes place in the 1958 Atlanta, a time when the city is overrun with hatred and unease. We get to see this unfold through the eyes of one of the ‘outsiders’ who manages to make it to the inside, all the while we follow as Ruth falls in love, struggles to find the right and wrong of the situation, and battles with her desire to fit in or stand out.
One of the things I love about this book is that it centers on a Jewish narrator and we get to see the hate directed towards the Jewish people in the 1950’s. A lot of the time, historicals that feature Jewish main characters are really only set during WWII, but I like that we got this different side of it. The author does a great job with the authenticity of the time; every time I picked this up I was immersed in pastel tea dresses, Southern sweet tea, and Friday night football games. It was so fun and so sweet, but at the same time there was this sinister undercurrent of racism and discrimination, and I thought the author balanced that so expertly.
I think Ruth was such a great main character to follow because she was so easy to relate to and had such an authentic voice. I remember being in high school and wanting to fit in and have friends and a boyfriend but also being torn between that and being myself. It can be so hard not to get swept up in the status quo and be a follower and we get to see Ruth battle that as the book progresses. The romance element here was so innocent and at the same time toe-curlingly sweet, and I found myself falling in love for the first time all over again with Ruth and Davis. We also get all these incredible side characters who help Ruth follow her own path and not a single person in this book is unnecessary.
Everything about this book is fantastic, I just thought the plot fell a little short. For about 75% of this novel it read like a YA romance and I kept waiting and waiting for the racism/discrimination issue to become more prominent than the dances and romance and teas but it didn’t come until right at the end. I wish it had been more of a center feature of the book but instead it took a backseat to the romance plot line, which is ultimately why I gave it a four instead of a five star rating.
Honestly, this book is one of the best things I’ve read all year. I’m so grateful to have been able to read and review this one early because it really was a beautiful novel. The author combines the best and worst parts of the 50’s with humor, wit, impeccable writing, and a main character that I think will stick with me for a long time. Pick this novel up if you’re into YA and if you aren’t make sure to pick this up for a friend, this novel is amazing.