by Deb Caletti
To say that I was utterly conflicted about this book would be an understatement. I was incredulous at some of the characters, I had difficulty digesting what the author really wanted to convey, and I had trouble joining together the two seemingly disjointed sub-stories involved.
Sixteen-year-old Ruby McQueen is dubbed The Quiet Girl until she no longer is – quiet, that is – all thanks to filthy rich, motorcycle-riding “bad boy” Travis Becker. Suddenly, all she ever thought she was went flying out the window – she finds herself doing things she never would have done as The Quiet Girl, and justifies her actions by invoking love.
However, when something tragic happens with Travis that compromised even Ruby’s personal relationships, her mother Ann takes positive action. Ruby is practically dragged into joining Ann’s book club, the Casserole Queens, composed of relatively older people. When the Queens discover that one of their members is actually the love interest of a writer whose memoirs they were currently discussing, they go on a mission/road trip miles away, all in the name of love.
So, is this book about Ruby’s coming-of-age, or is it about the bittersweet reunion of two people, both in the twilight of their years, who were tragically separated by time and distance?
The first half of the book was all about Ruby and her shenanigans with Travis. Yes, shenanigans. I initially failed to grasp the entire point of her risky and intrepid actions; she annoyed me all the way to my fingertips. She allowed herself to be wrapped around Travis' rich little finger, who wheedled and charmed shamelessly. Perhaps it’s because I was never one who was interested in or intrigued by the “bad boys,” who, in my opinion, still elude proper characterization. (Who is a “bad boy,” really??) In any case, Travis was depicted that way – as someone who has the effect of transforming The Quiet Girl into The Unthinking Girl in, oh, just five minutes? Yes, Ruby does a complete turnaround in the first few
There is a reason for Ruby’s insipid actions, I am aware. But at the time I was reading them, I was simply irked. All I could think of was, Hey girl, where’s your sense of self? Think! But of course, she had to do all those in order for the author to stress on a valid point. All I had to do was to figure them out.
Meanwhile, the second half deals with the Casserole Queens, of which Ruby’s mother, Ann, was a member. The story segues neatly from the height of Ruby’s escapades into her role as an initially-reluctant, newly-inducted Queen. Quite honestly, this part was for me the highlight of the book. Not the road trip, no, or the part where some risky plan was involved (which was a tad unrealistic, to be candid), but the part where love finds a way to become.
My annoyance with Ruby was eclipsed by the realization in the end that yes, love will make you go through lengths you never imagined you can until you’ve actually done it. This is especially true in the case of the old people, Charlie and Lillian (albeit with a little outside help, yes). But in Ruby’s and Travis’ case, I beg to disagree; Ruby wasn’t in love with him, absolutely not. Neither do I think that she was merely proving something to herself when she momentarily “forgot” who she truly was to have risked so much for him. For me, it was pure and simple stupidity, to which we all succumb once in our lives. Perhaps, when we were sixteen?
When it comes down to it, though, I did appreciate the relevance of Ruby's story. My own childhood was very quiet and uneventful, as far as I can recall, as life was more simple way back. Ruby's errant behavior made me contemplate about how I would raise my own daughter to become more responsible, how to act accordingly when faced with a particular situation, how to weigh her options before deciding on anything. More important, however, I realized how much I would have to prepare for the eventual heartaches that she will inevitably suffer as she adds more teen years to her age.
When my daughter becomes sixteen, I will do absolutely everything in my power for her not to become Ruby. :)
In parting, here's my favorite passage from the book. Is it any surprise that it is lifted from the story of the older people, not Ruby's? :)
Recommended by: Tina
Book Details: My own, trade paperback, a birthday gift from Tina :)