Thank you so much to Algonquin Books for Young Readers for sending me a review copy of this book! This was a quick and engrossing read filled with important themes.
Title: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Genres: YA Historical
I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.
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.
This book starts out great, giving a peek into the end of the novel without giving away anything. I was so intrigued and excited to get into it. Immediately, the author pulls you into an immersive setting of what Atlanta is like in the ’50s. It’s hot, humid, and rife with racism. I appreciated the realistic and horrible depictions of racism and antisemitism that weave their way into the main story.
I had trouble connecting with Ruth in the beginning. She says it herself—she’s shallow. She wants to sluff off her Jewish roots and become like the “pastel posse” of Christian blondes who love etiquette, kissing boys, and dancing the nights away at balls. From the perspective of a fifteen-to-sixteen-year-old, wanting to fit in after moving to a brand new state makes total sense. She wants to fit in so bad, she’s willing to do anything for it. And she does. She sacrifices a lot. So while I had a hard time connecting with Ruth at times, I understood why she did what she did. Seeing her grow out of her shallowness was a nice transition that I really appreciated. I do wish the author had dragged that growth out a little bit longer, however.
I appreciated the complexity of the relationships in this book, such as the ones between Ruth and her immediate family, Ruth and her grandparents, as well as the non-stereotypical depictions of the “pastel posse” and the boy she falls in love with. Everything gets so complicated with everyone, and being in Ruth’s head as she figures it all out was definitely my favorite part of the book.
- I really liked the ending and how it played out. I was worried about sugar-coating, but I felt the author handled it all really well.
This I think this is an important book with a main character who has a lot of growth. I’d definitely recommend it to those looking for stories set in the ’50s who want to learn more about the issues during this time.