Book Review: Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Ruby on the Outside
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Reading Level: Middle Grade
Genres: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: June 16th 2015
Review Source: Author

Ruby’s mom is in prison, and to tell anyone the truth is to risk true friendship in this novel from the author of The Summer Before Boys that accurately and sensitively addresses a subject too often overlooked.

Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes is about to start middle school, and only her aunt knows her deepest, darkest, most secret secret: her mother is in prison.

Then Margalit Tipps moves into Ruby’s condo complex, and the two immediately hit it off. Ruby thinks she’s found her first true-blue friend—but can she tell Margalit the truth about her mom? Maybe not. Because it turns out that Margalit’s family history seems closely connected to the very event that put her mother in prison, and if Ruby comes clean, she could lose everything she cares about most.

Ruby on the Outside follows the story of a young girl who is in the summer right before the sixth grade. She may be a little different than average, though. Her mother is in prison.

It all began when Ruby was just a little girl. She barely remembers the night of the arrest. Some of her earliest memories are from when she had already began living with her Aunt Barbara. See, Ruby’s mom gave birth young and single, then came along Nick Sands, and her mom was so desperate for someone to take care of her and love her, that she just allowed him into their lives and got married. Turns out, Nick wasn’t the best of news. When he asked Ruby’s mom to come along with him to a drug store and leave a sleeping Ruby alone in the house, she did. It ended with a shot dead teen, a plea bargain for Nick, and Ruby losing faith in the word “soon.”

It is a sad story, but Ruby’s optimism and maturity make it bearable. Ruby still had a loving home with her aunt and dog, and she visited her mom every weekend possible. But Ruby wasn’t always the best, socially. She had a hard time making friends and always worried someone would get too close to find out why she never spoke of a mother. That is until she meets Margalit, and all of a sudden, she has best friend. Just like that. Some misunderstanding and resolving later, Ruby does let Margalit get close enough to find out about her weekend trips and the woman who isn’t her biological mother.

Reading through the book, it is a bit difficult to decipher what happened in past tense, and what is present tense. I figured out it was every other chapter. Besides Ruby’s internal struggle with her mom’s absence and external struggle with making friends, the book doesn’t surround any other major plot line. It is quite a short book - I finished it in one day. It’s a nice story, just not enthralling as I was expecting.

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