A 12-year-old girl experiences a year of discovery and transformation in Srager’s debut YA novel.
In the fall of 1949, Ruthie Treglia is a bright, sensitive tomboy growing up in the Washington Heights section of New York City. A high IQ test score means that at 13, she’ll start high school a year earlier than her peers. The coming year brings many changes for Ruthie, and she decides to keep a journal that she calls RR, or Ruthie’s Reflections, in which she records her everyday joys and frustrations and the pivotal events that ultimately shape the course of her teenage years. Over the course of the year, Ruthie spends time with her best friend, Karen; overcomes social awkwardness at a New Year’s Eve party; and has lunch at the Stork Club with her flamboyant aunt. She also reconnects with her Jewish heritage and learns about the flights of her friends’ families from the Nazis during World War II. Ruthie’s experiences culminate in a road trip to Florida, where she encounters racial and religious prejudice. Srager’s coming-of-age story has a solid, focused structure and a likable protagonist in Ruthie. Presenting the story in the form of a journal gives the narrative a sense of immediacy and shows how Ruthie matures during the year. Friendships are important to Ruthie, and Srager deftly weaves details from the lives of Ruthie’s friends into the narrative, presenting a well-developed picture of her social life. Ruthie’s concerns about leaving her friends behind when she starts at a new school and her nervousness about beginning her first real romantic relationship may resonate with readers experiencing similar situations. Despite the novel’s successes, the narrative suffers at times from a lack of development. Srager’s short novel progress with brief, fast-paced chapters—so fast that the development of key characters, such as Ruthie’s father, Joe, is frequently impeded.
Addresses serious issues with sensitivity and compassion, but the lightweight narrative lacks substance.