Title: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Historical
Source: e-ARC from publisher
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.
♦ “If you want to fly, you have to ruffle some feathers.” ♦
Set in the late 1950s, In the Neighborhood of True is an emotional novel that reawakens the reality of segregation and racism that darkened USA’s past and even haunts today’s America. As a very character-driven story, sixteen-year-old Ruth carries the reader through the heartbreak of losing her father and moving from New York to a Southern state where etiquette is inculcated through a pink book, her classmates fit the debutante mold, the boys are swoony, but her revelation of being Jewish is a dangled secret that puts her at risk from being part of the popular crowd.
♦ “Be strong when everything is going wrong.” ♦
Ruth is a very quirky girl. She’s smart and straightforward, and the entire book is filled with her determination to be accepted by her pre-debutante-obsessed peers but also finding that strength and balance to honor herself, her family, and her religion. Ruth’s inner and outer dialogue is one of the most captivating mouthpieces I have a read in a long time. Her engaging voice and character development allows the novel to steadily unfold into a story of maturity, first love, and a teenage girl’s bravery to fight for social justice.
♦ “Imagine it and you can be it.” ♦
In the Neighborhood of True was a constant page-turner of heartfelt characters and a main character that is not afraid to shake up her Southern town. The historical and fist-gripping hatred that is portrayed in this novel is heartbreaking, but like one of the characters points out to Ruth, “when hatred shows its face, you need to make a little ruckus. And you, dear Ruthie, made a very important little ruckus.”
About the Author:
Susan Kaplan Carlton currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland. Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.
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Note: Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me on the blog tour and providing me an e-ARC to read and review All statements and opinions are my own. Please note that all quoted material is not final and may change in the final publication of the book.