Ruby on the Outside
Nora Raleigh Baskin (Juvenile Fiction)
Eleven-year old Ruby Danes is caught between two lives: inside of prison, where her mother is currently serving a 20- to 25-year sentence, and the outside world. When Ruby is on the inside, the rules are pretty straightforward: it’s OK to cry, but don’t be too disruptive; mind what you wear; and don’t bring anything with you. On the outside, the rules become a little more complicated and the lines of right and wrong seem more blurry and inexact. When Ruby finds true friendship with the new girl in her condo, will the truth about her mother being a inmate ruin everything?
This book had a lot of potential, but unfortunately is beset with quite a few problems. First, it is billed as a story about friendship and the secrets we think we must keep close in order to preserve it. This book actually goes deeper and a little darker by exploring justice, fairness, separation, honesty, and loyalty.
Secondly, this book is most likely going to be inappropriate for the age group for which it is intended. Most juvenile fiction is written for the 7 to 12 age range, but Baskin delves into child abandonment, murder, armed robbery, incarceration, and drug abuse. These are fairly weighty issues for readers on the younger end of the scale.
Lastly, the copyediting is pretty unforgivable and hard to overlook. I am willing to ignore the occasional omitted word or misused punctuation mark, but when you find close to a dozen or more occurrences, then it’s just sloppy and careless work. On a side note, I understand that several of these issues were resolved in the second edition paperback version, so if you avoid the hardback edition, you will not experience this irritation.
In summary, if you’re looking for a book that deals with young children coping with a parent serving time, this might be a good option, but there are better and more appropriate choices out there that discuss children seeking friendships and looking for peer acceptance.