Title: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Ficton
Source: Received an copy from NetGalley/the pubsliher/Fantastic Flying Book Club in exchange for an honest review on this blog tour
Rating: 5 stars
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.
From the moment I began this story, I was instantly hooked. It started with Ruth in a courtroom about to testify about the hate crime that occured during the novel. What was the hate crime? What was she specifically there to testify for? What was she going to say? So many questions popped into my mind in the first few pages, and I knew I needed to have all of them answered.
Ruth, her mother, and her sister have moved from New York to Atlanta to live with her grandparents after her father’s sudden and unfortunate death. Fontaine and Mr. Hank (the grandparents) are Christian, but Ruth and her family are Jewish. In Atlanta in 1958, being Jewish was not something that was very accepted. Ruth hides this part about her as she goes to a Christian school and is influenced by Fontaine to get involved in debutante life.
The glitz and the glamour capture Ruth, along with Davis, the boy with the lovely smile and cute dimple. In her infatuation, Ruth continues to hide the real her. Until a violent hate crime occurs, and Ruth must ultimately decide the person she wants to be.
This book was incredible. Incredible. I was sucked in from the very beginning and just couldn’t put it down. The writing really brought the setting of the 1950s to life. I could picture the fashion, the speech, and the manerisms so clearly in my mind. It was almost like watching a movie.
But what was most important about this book was how Susan Kaplan Carlton chose to tackle such a prevalent issue. Sure, this was book set in 1958 and schools and busses and movie theatres are no longer segregated and you won’t be turned away from a debutante ball if you’re Jewish, but you can’t sit there and tell me that people do not experience awful prejudices in 2019. It may not be as clean cut as 1958, but it sure as hell exists.
And just as it was important in 1958 for Ruth to decide whether or not to do the right thing, it is also important for us to absolutely decide to do the right thing in 2019.
Susan Kaplan Carlton has graced us with a lovely novel and I think you should all pick it up when you have a chance. Every single thing about it was great. When someone can present such a vital topic with a beautiful story and elegant writing, it’s not something you want to miss out on.
Check out the tour schedule here!
Enter the giveaway here!
- Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE by Susan Kaplan Carlton (US Only)
- Ends April 16, 2019
About Susan Kaplan Carlton:
Susan Kaplan Carlton, a longtime magazine writer, currently teaches writing at Boston University. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the fine points of etiquette from a little pink book and learned the power of social justice from their synagogue. Carlton’s writing has appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, Seventeen, Parents, and elsewhere. She is the author of the young adult novels Love & Haight, which was named a Best Book for Young Adults by YALSA and a Best Book by the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street Books, and Lobsterland.