Title: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Release Date: April 9th 2019
Publisher:Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite YA genres, but the genre doesn’t have as much visibility as others. When I saw this book, I was super excited to see that had interesting historical items going on along with an emotional and personal journey, I was so intrigued. Plus, THAT COVER = Mandy’s whole aesthetic in life. And the verdict? It certainly didn’t let me know.
This story focuses on Ruth Robb – a New York City transplant in 1958 Georgia. She’s bursting in personality, fashion, and sadness after her father’s death, leaving her to start over in a new town full of new Southern traditions and culture. After discovering that the fact that she is Jewish may cause some trouble with her new friends and love interest, she is definitely caught between two worlds – who she is at the Temple and who is she is when she’s practicing for the Magnolia Ball.
Ruth is a great narrator. Yes, she makes some frustrating decisions, but she is so authentic and realistic. She is a girl that is grieving but still trying to thrive and survive. She cares for her family, and she is struggling to find her exact place in the wrong. I really rooted her on, and she definitely transforms and finds herself and what she really wants throughout the story.
The other side characters were intriguing and complex. I think my favorites were Max and Nattie. There is a pretty decent size cast of side characters, but I just went through a large amount of them in my head since they were all easy and distinct to call to mind.
The setting was super well done. I felt immersed in the story. Not only was I transported to the 1950s but I felt like I was down in the South in Georgia. It was such an interesting setting, and this girl is all about the atmosphere – and this atmosphere was done right. The writing overall, actually, was pretty good. The pacing was done pretty well, and it was a pretty fast read when I was fully dedicated to reading it.
Kaplan Carlton did a really good job with adding in the historical parts. She touched on a few specific items that I didn’t know as much about, and while they were hard to read about the past discrimination, they were important parts in history to remember and learn from – especially with everything that is happening right now in the United States right now. The plot does include major events that relates to this history, but a lot of the story focuses on the mental and emotional journey that Ruth takes and both were definitely interesting.
There were just two parts that I wasn’t the biggest fan of. I felt a slight disconnect from the story overall. While it was interesting, I could drop reading it for days on end without rushing to pick it back up. The other issue is the ending. It felt like we were leading up to it, then it happened really fast and abruptly, and then it was over. I wanted a little more time to focus on it since it was such a big item, and it just ended with a blink of an eye to me. I just wanted it to simmer a bit more before the pot boiled over – and that shows you that I need to end this review because I’m using cooking metaphors now.
Overall, it was a super well done historical fiction book with a wonderful emotional and mental journey.
rating: 4 crowns & an Ariel rating
content warnings: use of word “Negro” due to time frame, mentions of murder/lynching, discrimination (race and religious), death
Susan Kaplan Carlton currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland. Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.
What do you think? Are you excited for this one? Do you want more historical fiction books? Let’s discuss in the comments below!