Author Emily Humphreys has written a compelling tale of life on the outside of a high school’s social elite. The artists, the writers, the dreamers, the thespians–the students who just might say:
“I guess some people’s only version of the world is high school, but my version has never been that small.”
When Ruby Fink arrives at posh Desert Academy, she would already have stuck out a mile. In her Batman shirt and carrying her ever-present backpack she could not hope to fit in with the cheerleaders, the athletes and their Fanboys and Fangirls even if she’d wanted to. But that’s just it–Ruby is comfortable with who she is. She is observant and her notebook is ever at hand. Ruby has moved too many times to count. But this is for a great reason–her family is united behind her dad’s career as a famed National Geographic photographer. She knows that high school is not the peak moment in her life, but
merely a single step on her life’s journey. Arriving at school that first day she takes the a delightful detour to a a journey of surprise, friendship and, surprisingly, both consequences and kindness.
It’s a story of kids who think, who use their brains and their creativity. Kids who impose their own limits. Yes, they pull pranks–but there are consequences and they accept them. They are known to themselves as the Dark Ferret Society.
“It’s too easy to resort to name calling and finger pointing. Yes,
it is effective, but you’re so much more than that, Elizabeth,” Jonathan said.
That’s the kind of kids they are–not goody-goodies, but not passive and certainly not emotionless or soulless. They have grit, determination and creativity at their disposal and use them to cope admirably with life.
I love that Ruby’s family pulls together–however corny the event they all enjoy and participate in their families traditions and celebrations. They are supportive of each other. There’s no calling someone “butthead” or anything like that.
“He smelled like the kind of cologne that made your heart wonder why you weren’t dating anyone.”
I love that, although, there is a budding romance, there are a few sisterly hugs and finally they do kiss, but the kids stay on track–their goals matter to them. The young couple’s idea of a great date is to enjoy the stars in the sky or to study together in a hotdog restaurant–no online lingerie shopping or you-know-what-texting. No one runs off with the boyfriend or rushes to consummate what could be a fleeting relationship. Best of all there are no vampires or dystopian-anything here.
Author Emily Humphrey’s does a superb job at conjuring the emotions of the moment. Here are a few quotes I really liked.
“Ruby was careful never to use the word home. She wasn’t sure she had experienced it yet.”
“That telling the truth of who you are is more important than the vocabulary
of clothes and past times and music you learn to fit in.”
“Some people feel more like home than places.”
“That’s the thing about old stories. Even if someone doesn’t want to remember
them, they certainly have a way of creeping up into the present,”
These kids reminded me so much of my own group of high school friends. We had a plan and knew where we were going. We weren’t nuns or monks but relationships weren’t the be-all, end-all. Dating was a part of it, but everyone in that circle mattered to everyone else. We wanted each other to reach our goals. I could picture any one of us saying:
“You and I both know that ideas are
best when shared, not just cooped up in one person’s brain. That’s why art is so
I was too shy to ever do any pranks beyond the simple lying to get a pass to the library, but there were pranks done and some were of the glorious nature of the ones in this book. Who could forget the great ketchup sale of 1979, for example. The stuff of legends.
Extremely conservative parents might object because they students do break some rules–but not windows or hearts. They do sneak out–but the impression is clearly given that the parents (WOW) TRUST their kids and the kids do not betray that trust. They are in high school–not preschool and have their priorities straight. No one sneaks a joint or raids Dad’s liquor cabinet.
Even some moderate folks might also object to a boy/girl sleep over. But everyone wears proper pajamas and it’s one kid per sleeping bag. It’s a ritual–not an orgy, and they know it. Everything the kids do is in line with what my parents would have allowed in my group, but in the 1970s the only time we got to have a night of all of us–boys and girls–together was at the State Thespian Society Conference. Youth Group Lock-Ins weren’t my thing if they even had them back then.
That the parents trust their kids and that the kids want to live up to that trust is remarkable in a young person’s book today. There is real love in Ruby’s house:
“Moments like this just
hit you. This fuzzy feeling of warmth and the light coming from my house must
be the closest feeling to home I’ve ever felt.”
I highly recommend this book for anyone 4th grade and up and am pleased to announce that the second book in this series, Rise of the Narcoleptic Turtles, will be out soon. Watch my blog or twitter feed for more information on the new book.