A Note and Disclaimer: This is Part 2 of a 3-part blog on the Beat Street Series, with Part 1 reviewing The Beat on Ruby’s Street, Part 2 reviewing Fool’s Errand, and Part 3 featuring an interview with author Jenna Zark. I received free copies of the The Beat on Ruby’s Street and Fool’s Errand. I was not paid for my reviews and my opinions are honest and from the heart.
Genre: Middle Grade
Author: Jenna Zark (website here)
Where to Buy: Amazon
Page length: 220
My Content Rating: G+ (like the first one, this book is age appropriate but definitely has some complicated events that younger readers may have questions about)
Ruby is unhappy with her new life. Her mom’s new husband, Chaz, is ok but not Ruby’s father, which means she doesn’t like him much. Ruby’s father and brother tour frequently and Ruby misses them. Worst still, Ruby now has to attend public school. But at least she has her good friend, Sophie. That is, until Sophie and her mom disappear. When Ruby learns the truth, that Sophie’s mom has been blacklisted as a pro-socialist writer and that Sophie can’t live in New York anymore, Ruby embarks on a journey to help her friend and return some normality to her life.
What I Loved:
As with the first book in the Beat Street Series, I really loved Ruby in this book. She’s her own woman who comes up with her own plans and follows through. She’s tenacious and driven. Also, her loyalty to her friend is really admirable.
In this book, we also see a bit more of the back drop of the 1950s come into focus, both with the House Un-American Activities Committee and mentions of the Civil Rights movement in the South. I appreciated how these historical points, which are very relevant to modern events, were weaved into the story to lend context to Ruby’s life.
I also really enjoyed the introduction of some new characters, including Jo-Jo and Ms. Dandridge, who both lent a bit of wisdom and sanity when Ruby drove her plans off the rails, so to speak. It was also nice to see Mrs. Levitt get more development. She’s a complicated character for sure, but I appreciate that she’s not painted strictly as a villain, but an adult who genuinely wants to see Ruby prosper, even if Ruby doesn’t appreciate her help all the time.
What I Didn’t Love:
So, some spoilers. The central plot of the book focuses on Ruby lying to her parents and traveling cross country to some place she’s never been to find Sophie. Granted, she’s with Jo-Jo, who is older and more responsible. But still, I will be honest and say that I struggled with this. Ruby is 11. I was uncomfortable, for sure, imagining myself as 11-year-old Ruby making this choice, or even worse, a child I was responsible for doing this. This is a realistic novel, not fantasy, so the real-world implications of this action were very present in my mind. But, just because a book makes me uncomfortable doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it or think it lacks merit. Let’s say I’m still processing how I feel about the central plot of the story.
Would I Recommend:
Yes. While I fully admit I was uncomfortable with the central plot, I don’t think just because something makes you uncomfortable it should be avoided. In fact, this book made me think a lot about my assumptions of the personal agency of adolescents. And it was a well written, gripping adventure and I read through it quickly, wanting to know what would happen to Ruby. I would suggest that parents read first before handing off to their younger readers, and potentially being ready for dinner time discussions about Ruby’s journey.