Book Review

ARC Book Review/Blog Tour: In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton

Howdy! Today I have a special review post because I’m on the blog tour for In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton.

I really enjoyed this book and it was just released. Scroll down for my review and don’t forget to add it to your TBR.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: YA Historical Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Expected Release Date: April 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

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.

Thank you to the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers for the eARC (through Netgalley) and opportunity to read In the Neighborhood of True. All opinions are my own.

FINDING YOUR VOICE.

I loved the perspective this book gave. We often see Jewish related books based around World War II. This instead, brings it past that time into an era where anti-Semitism is still heavily prevalent (especially in the South US). The historical aspects (the hate crime from this novel) really struck a chord.

This book, personally, felt like the first time we all realize that racism is truly around us and how difficult it can be to accept that some people are filled with unfounded hate.

Our main character, Ruth, had to learn a lot in this book. Initially all of our focus was on her fitting in. Wearing the perfect outfit, going to the right school, being in the best circle of friends, dating the cute boy, etc. She was vain and a bit shallow. While tedious at first, you can see how Ruth’s perspective and mindset change over the novel. She felt compelled to hide who she truly was for fear of being ostracized. It wasn’t until there was a glaringly obvious reason that Ruth decided to tell others that she was Jewish. Sometimes, it takes a big push to understand the gravity of the situation.

There was so much research for this book! Carlton seriously did an amazing job of putting me in the 1950s-60s without it being too heavy-handed. What’s funny is I would cringe at certain things characters would say/do because it’s not the way we handle things now. Which I credit as a positive. I loved feeling truly present in the story.

One of the reasons I gave four stars was that it took way too long to get back to the trial. The first chapter is set up with Ruth being a witness to something, then it skips back 6 months. I clocked it at 94% when the trial actually came back into play. I would have loved a bigger expansion on that piece and less on Ruth being in high school and running around with Davis.

The ending made me pause as the title clicked into place. Ruth had made some choices and had continually only told portions of the truth. She at last realized she was tired being in the neighborhood of true, and wanted to live and experience life without having to hide behind her own omissions.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a kiss, make-outs, a glossed over love scene
  • Violence: hate-crime
  • Trigger warnings: underage drinking/smoking, description of a lynching, hate-crime, racism, anti-Semitism

SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland. Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.

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