Book Reviews Tell Me What to Read Young Adult Books

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

So, now in the middle of August, here’s the July book of Tell Me What to Read. I am nothing if not prompt. 

I checked Ruby Red out in Texas, but didn’t manage to get through it before we moved, so it was one of the first books I requested when I got my library card in North Carolina.  

First off, this book is NOT high-quality literature – it’s definitely in the “fluffy YA” pile. Consider yourself warned. That didn’t stop me from reading it in about a day and a half. If you’re picky about writing, this book may
bother you a bit (it’s translated from German). I know everyone loves to
trash on Twilight for being poorly written, but frankly, I never
noticed (clear proof that I am a serious student of literature, etc).
This book, though, I definitely noticed the writing. Not enough for me to give it up, but enough to take note that it’s not the most amazingly written book you’ll ever read.

And, there’s this big “surprise” that’s revealed at the very end, which I called halfway through the book. I am not one to usually guess those plot twists (Bart is the plot guesser in our relationship), but this one? Either it’s really obvious or I’m just getting smarter. I’d love to pretend I’m getting smarter, but I fear that it’s just really obvious. 

Finally, if you hate books that end with no closure and force you to read the next book, you will hate this book. I requested the next book within five minutes of finishing this one. 

With those three disclaimers aside, this was just a fun, quick summer read. No slogging at all. It’d be perfect for an airplane ride or the beach, but it was also excellent for sprawling out on the floor and pointedly ignoring piles of unpacked boxes.

The story is narrated by Gwyneth, who is sixteen and lives with her mom and two siblings in the family’s London home shared by their grandmother, a crazy great-aunt, and an aunt and cousin. That cousin, Charlotte, is notable because she’s the family member who carries the time-travel gene.

The whole family is just waiting for Charlotte’s first time-travel jump, which will manifest between her sixteen and seventeenth birthday. Charlotte has had a very abnormal childhood since she’s spent it all prepping to travel back in time, cramming her head with history, etiquette, and dancing/fencing/violin lessons. Want to know the details of what happened in 1868 in London? She’ll know.

Gwyneth has kept herself a bit removed from the whole thing – she’s gone about her regular teen life, attending school, watching movies with her friend, and basically been completely normal. But then, it turns out, Gwyneth is the one with the time-travel gene. Thanks to a fudged birth certificate and some lying on the part of her mom (her dad died several years earlier), everyone assumed it was Charlotte. They were wrong. 

So now, totally unequipped for life in the past, Gwyneth is thrown in with Gideon, the (surprise!) super good-looking time-traveler from another family that carries the male time-travel gene.

And this time-travel business is more than just popping in and out of the last five centuries. Turns out that she is number 12 in a circle of time-travelers from both families, and she and Gideon’s job is to find all the other 10 in the past and connect them in order to . . . well, no one is quite sure what.

But whatever it is that will happen is big and important enough that plenty of people, both in the present and the past, are willing to try and keep it from happening.    

Time to learn how to blend in to the past, and fast. Also, it might be nice if she could convince Gideon that she’s not just like all the other movie-star/boy/fashion-obsessed girls he’s met before (frankly, I was with Gideon. I was pretty sure she was EXACTLY that). It’s a bit of a hard sell, since Gideon is not pleased about losing his well-prepped companion AND now having to drag Gwyneth along to the past where she is more of a burden than a help. 

Complaints aside, I’m pretty excited about picking up the next one. Anyone else read it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. 

(One more random aside, the image at the top is what my library copy looked like. But when I was Googling around to find the image, I stumbled on this alternate cover, which I like more because. . .well, I like pretty dresses. And the London skyline). 

Copy checked out from my local library

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  • Reply april August 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I am quite certain that I've read this, but not entirely certain anymore because your synopsis isn't ringing any bells. I thought I enjoyed it though! Perhaps I might re-request it from the library.

  • Reply katieleigh August 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I agree with you that the writing isn't great, but the story is really fun. I flew through this one too, and then read Sapphire Blue. The third book comes out in the U.S. this fall!

  • Reply Gail August 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    I read this just after reading another YA romance recommended by one of the Young Women in my ward (oh the things we will do to connect with the youth.) Ruby Red was a breath of fresh air compared to the other book (the title of that one is "Need." It is a blatant, badly written, twilight rip-off.) Ruby Red is not necessarily great writing. It is what we call, in my family, a "literary twinkie" rather than a meat and potatoes kind of read. Most importantly, my 14 year old daughters enjoyed this book and I did not have any misgivings about them reading it.

  • Reply mel August 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I felt pretty much the same way about the first book…it wasn't great but it was light and fun and went by quickly. At the time I wished I liked Gwyneth better, she just came off as kind of annoying, mostly. I think she is supposed to be 16, but she read closer to an 11 or 12 year old to me! Then I read the second book in the series and enjoyed it more. Gwyneth comes across as much more likable(although she is still constantly crying). There is also a new character introduced from the start that I thought would be dumb and obnoxious, but after a few chapters I found him to be pretty charming. Basically, the series gets better and hopefully the last book builds on that momentum.

  • Reply Lisa August 15, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    No comment on the book but- I just voted on glasses and supposedly won! That's pretty darn cool.

  • Reply Deanna H August 16, 2013 at 4:14 am

    Okay, I'm glad you didn't hate it since I was the one to recommend it. I loved your review about it. I think most people feel that same way. I think the third book must be full of wrapping up tons of loose ends and clearing up confusion. I'm really hoping it is a good final book. I also don't like those original covers. They are not attractive at all.

  • Reply Emily August 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I really like this series! It's very fun and fluffy, and I think Gwen and her melodramatics (especially in the second book, where she's constantly thinking, "Yay, Gideon likes me! Oh no, he hates me!!!!") are funny. I've read a little bit of the German version and the translation doesn't quite do the story justice, but at least it's not painful to read or anything.

    And I'm with you on Twilight. I still can't understand why everyone says it's badly written.

  • Reply Kathi Sophiea August 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I am a booklover from germany, so I ve read all three of them. (Sorry my english writing is bad) I liked them and read them a few times, they are easy to read and I guess a teen book. But it is nice to have a book to read if you had a long day and don't want to think too much 🙂

  • Reply Lady Susan March 26, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    So, I just read this and I did not call the ending at all. I was actually completely surprised. What does that say!?

  • Reply Kayla FrecklesinApril December 7, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    I got this one from Overdrive yesterday afternoon and stayed up late finishing it but I'm not sure why? You're right that the writing is pretty terrible. Apparently I found the story a lot more compelling than my conscious self is willing to admit?

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