Title: Remarkably Ruby
Author: Terri Libenson
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 1st June 2022
Synopsis: REMARKABLY RUBY is the sixth and latest book in the best-selling Emmie & Friends series. This time, the spotlight is on that fleeting background character we’ve all come to know and love as “Baked Bean Girl.” (She’s the one who’s always running to the bathroom after a fibre-rich snack.) Well, she has a name — Ruby! From bestselling author Terri Libenson, this is a story about how there’s more to everyone than meets the eye.
Pride. Popularity . . . Poetry Middle school.
RUBY: A little awkward. Not a “joiner”. Loves to write poetry.
MIA: Type A. Popular. Wants to be class prez.
They used to be friends. But now they have nothing in common anymore… Or do they? REMARKABLY RUBY is a story about how there’s more to everyone than meets the eye.
Ruby and Mia used to be friends – that was before middle school when everything changed. Mia became popular, and Ruby was awkward – too awkward to fit in anywhere, and they both drifted apart. Mia’s got a bunch of new friends, and she’s running for class president – but she’s uneasy about her competition and isn’t really listening to what people want. And she only ever talks about the election and feels like she’s being pushed aside because her trendy new friends are always doing things without her.
Ruby loves poetry, but she doesn’t fit in. She’s lonely, and deals with stomach issues that send her running to the bathroom all the time. So she feels even more alienated. Until her English teacher asks her to help start a poetry club – and Ruby starts to hang out with Leah as they recruit people to the club – which starts out small, but slowly grows, and leads to Ruby gaining confidence and making friends. Yet she’s still anxious about reconnecting with Mia – so will the poetry club and a talent show bring the two friends together and help Ruby find out what is really upsetting her stomach?
Graphic novels are very popular these days – especially ones that tackle issues such as mental health, friendship, environmentalism, and many other topics that I have not yet encountered in my reading, though I am sure there are books that do deal with other things. Having books like this that deal with issues that affect people of all ages is important, and when they’re aimed at middle grade readers, this can help tweens and young teens (and, anyone who wants to and can read these books) deal with the emotions they might be feeling. Just because the scenario is in a middle school doesn’t mean the way the characters deal with what they are going through isn’t universal. Remarkably Ruby is an interesting novel that allows kids to see that what you see on the surface in school does not reflect what is going on inside for someone.
Whilst the specific setting is American and speaks to a school experience that Australian kids are unlikely to have, it does illustrate that in some schools, there are some activities that students might see as more important than others and delegate others as nerdier or not cool – of course, based on the school and the students, but I felt the general sentiments of how kids see certain things as cool or not cool was there. These kinds of books – whether in prose form, graphic novel form, or any other form, allow these voices and experiences to be heard, for kids to relate to them. They’re the kind of books that everyone needs, as I said before, and I think the dual narrative of two girls, with each telling their story in a different format. This allows for the personalities of the characters to shine through, and for the readers to gain an understanding of Ruby and Mia in their own words.
Ruby’s story was my favourite, I think, and I loved that she grew so much throughout the novel, whilst we watched Mia grapple with her focus on the election, and the conflict with the popular crowd as she thought she was being pushed out. This realistic portrayal of the turmoils, and ups and downs of friendship will hopefully engage readers, and can help start conversations about conflict and mental health, as well as building self-confidence in a safe and accessible way for readers of all ages. Another great book for readers aged eight and over.