“These criminals, these supremacists, must’ve wanted to pit our city against itself. Let’s prove them wrong”
Rating: 4/5 stars
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Thank you Algonquin Young Readers for sending me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review and for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!
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.
WHY ARE MORE PEOPLE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK?
Seriously, this was so good and such an important read. It’s scary and sad to think that a book set in 1958 can still tie so heavily into today’s society by discussing topics such as antisemitism and racism, but here we are. Now, I can’t speak from experience, but I do appreciate books that help put these tough topics into a better perspective for me and that’s exactly what this did. I thought the author did an excellent job of talking about Ruth hiding her religion from her new friends but also recognizing the fact that there are much bigger issues at hand given the time period.
The writing in this book was incredible and made me feel like I was actually taken back into the 50’s. I was also instantly hooked on this story since it starts off with Ruth seconds away from getting on the stand during a trial to testify for a hate crime. The author then leaves readers hanging on the edge of our seats and takes us back to a few months earlier and let’s the story unravel. I desperately tore through this book to find out whether Ruth would find her voice or continue to pretend to be someone she’s not.
I really fell in love with Ruth and I absolutely adored her growth throughout this story. She starts out seeing right through her town’s etiquette classes and catty new classmates, but she’s also desperate to fit in. She admits that she’s shallow and hides who she really is in order to not feel like an outcast, especially when the popular boy at school starts to fall in love with her. But hiding who she is means she has to make sure her new “friends” never find out that Ruth is Jewish. They can never know that she attends temple on the weekends. But along comes another boy who makes her question her new life (no, this isn’t a love triangle type of story), he’s just someone Ruth is able to be her true self with. On top of having a lovable MC, you’ll find other characters who are so easy to fall in love with, for example, my love for Ruth’s mother is infinite. She wanted to make sure Ruth saw the ugly in the world and never sugar coated anything for her children to help inspire them to be a better person. I honestly wish we all had parents like that.
I’m not going to talk much about the specifics of the hate crime because I’d rather not spoil anything, but I think it was handled very well. It was heart-wrenching to read, but also very moving. As for why I didn’t give this a five star writing, I have two teeny, tiny complaints. The first, is that the romance was a little too insta-lovey for me, but nothing I wasn’t able to see past because this is about so much more than a love story. And the second, was that the ending seemed a little rushed. I would have preferred maybe a little bit more of the actual trial or what Ruth does after the trial, but again nothing to deter me from not loving this book.
“He reminded us that we were all a small part of a larger story of hate, that all along, the clock had been ticking. And now the alarm rang for us.”
“You heard the rabbi – if you don’t stand up, you’re only brave in theory.”
“This underground group thought they’d blow this city apart, but the opposite is true.”
All in all, I’m so glad I found this book. I’m always on the hunt for thought-provoking stories that make you stop and think about the bigger picture and that’s exactly what this book did. I can’t recommend In the Neighborhood of True enough!
Until next time,