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Monday, 12 June 2017

Review: Ruby Red, Linzi Glass

Johannesburg and Soweto might not be far away geographically but are worlds apart socially and politically. Ruby, from an extremely privileged area in Johannesburg, is caught between two worlds. With a politically active father and mother, who both do their utmost to help the oppressed black population, she knows the necessity of keeping secrets and acting as if her family is no different to anyone else.

After her mother discovers a young black artist called Julian at a local underground art show, the need for secrets becomes even more apparent - especially when people from his own neighbourhood want to bring him down. After a brutal attack, Ruby's parents bring Julian to live with them permanently so he can paint in safety.

Meanwhile, while watching her school's rugby team play fiercely against a local Afrikaans school, Ruby inadvertently gets caught up in another world that's as fiercely off-limits as mixing with black people. She makes friends with an Afrikaans girl - Loretta - and starts dating Loretta's brother, Johann.

But mixing different worlds in a country where a different skin colour or speaking a different language can erupt quickly into anger and chaos, Ruby finds it increasingly difficult to be her true self.

It's a brilliant YA book that delves into the themes of identity; being true to yourself and the cost that can require; first love; and dealing with villains at high school. All of this is set cleverly against a country that is at the height of oppression but it's slowly becoming clear that the oppressed are not going to take it for much longer. Ruby is a very impressive heroine, and it's great to see a book in which a character's relationship with her parents - both of whom are still living - is so thoroughly explored. Each of the characters, however minor, has their own arc drawn out in detail, and while the ending is not necessarily a happy one, it feels right for the plot.

It's definitely a story I would recommend, for YA and adults alike.

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