Although I was an insignificant person in my own large urban high school, my younger daughter’s experiences in her tiny public charter school showed me how stifling and claustrophobic a small school can be. My daughter was with the same class of kids (and the same teacher) from 5th grade through 8th grade – and there was only one class per grade. Furthermore, most of the students had gone to the same elementary school, and many of them had even known each other in preschool. Relationships, whether between friends or “romantic,” simply seethed with stagnant intensity.
Thus we have Ruby Oliver, still stuck with the same tiny group of kids she’s known for untold years, all milling about like rats in a too-small cage. She hates herself when she fails to go after whom she wants but she also hates herself when she goes after whom she wants – and the whole time she wonders if she really wants these people in the first place. No wonder she’s in therapy. Ruby definitely exhibits some major self-destructive behavior, which takes on a particularly annoying passive-aggressive form – she won’t stand up for herself when people act like completely jerks to her, nor will she be forthright and open with people – but then she does stuff that is guaranteed to be misunderstood.
My advice to Ruby is to stop the navel-gazing and to spend as little time in that toxic school as possible (bleah, most of the students seem supremely nasty). Enjoy Seattle – what a fabulous place to live.
I love the Ruby books for their breezy tone, major likability, and great cover art. They shoot me right back to my boy-obsessive junior year of high school, which is not especially a comfortable place to be – and when I get annoyed with Ruby for her complete lack of perspective, all I have to do is read my diary from that year. As Ruby would say, “Ag!”