Title: Ruby in the Sky
Author: Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: 02/05/2019
Classification: Middle Grade
The last thing Ruby wanted to do was move into yet another forever home, particularly in Vermont. But Ruby knows the drill— don’t settle in, don’t make friends, and soon enough her mother, Dahlia, will pack them up and leave for their next forever home. However, everything changes when her mother is wrongly arrested after an altercation with an abusive boss. With the court date looming, Ruby attempts to push aside the noise and invisibly navigate sixth grade. But then she meets Abigail, her reclusive neighbor, and learns of her remarkable past.
Author Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo has delivered a knockout debut novel. Ruby is an amazing character who has been bogged down considerably by life before she’s even hit her teenage years. While she pines for the life and family she had in Washington, D.C., she’s captive to her mother’s whims, moving from city to city. Although what actually happened is not explicitly explained at the beginning of the book, it’s noted that this started sometime after Ruby’s father is no longer around. The strain this has put on the relationship between mother and daughter is believable. The two struggle to communicate with each other, and these scenes are particularly effective. Both have so much to say and no idea how to process these thoughts into words.
However, this is an issue that Ruby has outside of her home as well. She initially pushes everyone in her new town away, most especially the ever-friendly Ahmad, a Syrian refugee in her class. Her shyness stands in the way of her brilliant insight, and these moments are painfully poignant. Although Ahmad (and a small cast of secondary characters) provide her willing support, Ruby must find her own path through her barriers. Zulick Ferruolo writes with such honesty and clarity that it’s painful when she fails, but so rewarding when she finds her own success.
This book does use the fairly popular trope of the reclusive neighbor, but it’s mined with such depth that it feels entirely fresh. With a lesser writer, it might be flat, but Zulick Ferruolo has completely realized Abigail as a real person. By no means is she utilized as a prop. Not only does Abigail provide Ruby help on her journey, but she experiences growth herself by maneuvering through her secrets. The scenes with her are some of the largest highlights of this book.
For a book where many of the characters have issues with communication, it’s amazing that Zulick Ferruolo tapped into such a brilliant voice. Ruby reads like a friend— someone the reader really gets to know on a personal level over a few hundred pages. She’s the heart of this truly remarkable novel.
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.