We are welcomed into the third chapter with Ruby’s entrance into a classroom by a teacher who looks fresh from college. I cannot help but wonder if that is the reaction I have elicited from my students and parents in the past. Luckily I am dealing with the younger set and five years in to teacher I have more of a clue than I once did. I had to chuckle at the difference in the naming of subjects between her public and private schools. Just wait til she gets to college and they start adding digits too! Intro to Global Cultures sounds interesting but I have no idea what it involves, maybe it’s similar to Modern World History which I took in 12th grade?
The classroom sounds lovely; I cannot help but feel a little envious of her surrounds. Particularly when it is mentioned that there are only 14 students – bliss. I love Sarah’s description of the strawberry blonde as
“…pretty, in that cheerleader/student council president/future nuclear physicist kind of way.”
Firstly I love that this description is populated with back slashes, a sorely under-rated punctuation tool but I am probably just saying that due to my love of the bracket, hyphen and ellipse. Secondly, cheerleaders aren’t all that common in Australian society, sort of like an endangered species, but I can very easily picture this girl in my head. Not only that but this girl has perfected twisting hair knots with pencils? She clearly is destined for physics greatness. I wonder what my messy ponytail indicates for my future? I am also getting a little concerned with all this coffee talk with teenagers, as a non drinker myself (a teacher who doesn’t drink coffee OMG) I simply don’t get it.
Back to the school and the young teacher sitting on her desk – try hard. She introduces a project that involves each student being given a simple word on a piece of paper. This compilation, oral history project actually peaked my interest, sounds like a cool idea. Where did Sarah get the idea from? The idea that words have alternative meanings is not a new one but applying those alternatives to one’s self is interesting. Ruby gets ‘family’ and I blanch. How harsh and completely coincidental? Well not really as I am sure Sarah plotted the book but this poor girl. It really was like some sick joke.
We are introduced to Olivia. Olivia with her green eyes, braids and cool nose piercing. I wanted one of those but I surmised that it would accentuate the Pinocchio grandness of my nose. Sigh. I find it interesting that these two both drew words that they are both without. Family and money. The two big concerns of everyday life. I do wonder though how Olivia can afford private school if she is without money, a scholarship?
Ruby’s association with her backpack is an interesting one –
“…I couldn’t help but notice that, like me, it looked out of place here – all ratty and old, still stuffed with notebooks full of what was now, in this setting, mostly useless information.”
It is a telling explanation of where this character’s head is. That she is feeling anchorless in this new world of school and Cora’s home.
I love that Nate made the first move and called her name out across the yard. I love his opening line too –
“Attempted any great escapes already?”
The boy obviously possesses a sense of humour and I find myself warming to him and his perfect hair. Geez what’s with all the perfect hair in this place, it’s enough to give Ruby (and myself) a hair complex. I like that he doesn’t push her, that he in some way recognises the boundaries she’s put up. Although Jamie seems to have gone above and beyond with signing her up for Nate’s carpool. Carpool – such an innocuous and somewhat evil sounding word.
We learn of Marshall, an eighteen year old, fresh out of school, weed selling douche bag that is Ruby’s (for lack of a better word) boyfriend. Why on earth hasn’t she mentioned him before? And how on earth was he not worried about her absence for so many days? He obviously cares bucket loads. So they bonded over drinking Slurpees while high? I kind of understand that but he’s still a douche, probably a smelly one at that. There is no respect, no loyalty, no expectations, no affection really in this pairing and I can see the attraction for Ruby. If she has no expectations she can’t get hurt right? But the guy doesn’t even listen to her and I cannot help but think about a radically different Marshall who’s a doofus and completely in love with his girl (How I Met Your Mother). Ruby needs a Marshall Mach 2.
We are also introduced to storytelling Peyton who sounds like a complete waste of space. She was the rich girl in the public school with straight A’s who developed a penchant for a pothead. I knew so many of these girls in high school that I didn’t even have to imagine this girl. She’s also the closest thing Ruby has to a friend. She’s described as “incredibly naive” and I cringe. I don’t find the naive endearing, I find them endlessly frustrating and annoying. (I think we’ve covered that I am a cynic already.) Weirdly Peyton gave Ruby someone to look after, who needed her, so the friendship is really all about Ruby servicing her need to be needed. I do like that she never understood or “got” Ruby and Marshall’s arrangement as I too think it’s bonkers. (Most cynics are hardcore romantics, haven’t you heard that?)
We see Ruby doing her dash when perfectly quaffed Nate offers her a ride. Nate is an enabler, blast him. We discover a few things – Nate’s curiosity at her desire to run away from the house, his working for his father’s company and then they somehow end up at the yellow house. I am amazed she allowed him to drive her there, to have the new and old word mesh even slightly. I found it incredibly sad that she was hopeful that her mother was home and that Nate got that glimpse into her previous living situation. I was reminded of that quote ‘you can never go home again’, I am guessing no one ever told L. Frank Baum that. We witness Ruby making some kind of a break, deciding not to take anything with her. Is this the first step in the acceptance of her new life?
Nate’s dad sounds a little hardcore. Having worked for my own father before, I can sympathise with his predicament. More is expected of you and you really cannot take a stand cause then home life can be awful also. It is literally like being between a rock and a hard place or should I say a rock and a hard ass?
On Nate’s jaunt of work servitude, Ruby ends up meeting wild Harriet of whom I immediately liked. Eccentric people are soothing to me for some reason. Except that I learn the extent of Nate’s job. He’s basically an uber-errand boy extraordinaire and I amazed that he can be so calm. That kind of energy could quite possibly give me hives or even worse lead me into a chocolate binge. I feel like grabbing Nate’s cell phone and encasing it in jello – Jim Halpert style.
Ruby’s next day starts off with Jamie giving her a key to the house. A sign of trust. The key has ‘Wildflower Ridge’ engraved on it and I remember The Truth About Forever, a great little link between Ruby’s new life and the grief that that development was to Macy and her mother. I love authors who do this, create some link no matter how tenuous between their works. For some reason I thought of Kevin Smith’s films and the links between his characters. This will probably be the first and last time I will mention Sarah Dessen and Kevin Smith in the same sentence.
I loved the small touch of Cora’s note to Jamie on the kitchen island post-it –
“Lasagne in the fridge, put it in (350) as soon as you get home. See you by seven at the latest. Love, me.”
For me this demonstrated again the love between Cora and Jamie. We’ve seen evidence of his strong feelings for her but Cora’s … not so much. I think that although she comes across as an ice queen, she is anything but. Jamie, in all that we’ve seen and learnt about him in the last three chapters, would not be interested in someone frozen in the past. There is real love there.
I also adore the passage that follows-
“If nothing else, this made it clear to me that my sister had, in fact, finally gotten everything she wanted. Not just the things that made up the life she’d no doubt dreamed of – the house, the job, the security –all those nights in our shared room, but someone to share it with. To come home to and have dinner with, to leave a note for. Such simple, stupid things, and yet in the end, they were the true proof of a real life.”
Ruby and Cora both know what really counts in life. To have someone to count on, to be there for you. I am feeling a little introspective and sad in this moment.
It didn’t take long but guilty thoughts are popping into Ruby’s head. Her belief that she’d come back into Cora’s life once everything was orderly was obviously something that worried her enormously. But c’mon Ruby –there’s lasagne! It’s magical cure of all life’s disappointments along with ice-cream and peanut butter.
The shaking dog. Is it withdrawal from some hideous drug that Marshall has provided? No it’s not the douche bag’s fault, the dog actually suffers from oven phobia. I love it. Sarah’s one random chick with a main line to hilarity. Is it possible for a pet to be afraid of an oven though? My old dog, now sadly departed, was terrified of fireworks and going for walks but not ovens. Roscoe’s fear brings out an interesting element in Ruby, she’s initially dismissive and runs away to her room. She soon finds that cute and deranged (I am convinced now) dog staring soppy eyed at her.
“He was moving slowly, almost sideways, like a crab. When he saw that I’d noticed him, his ears went flat on his head, as if he was expecting to be ejected but couldn’t help taking a shot anyway.”
Dogs are brilliant at emotional blackmailing sans the use of words. I would have caved when she was back in the kitchen as I am a complete sap. But Ruby’s so defiant in her need not to care that she surprises herself and reaches down and pats his shaking head in reassurance.
“The moment I touched him, he was still.”
Sigh. A perfect chapter.
A Note from Adele
LOVING the S_DessenDiarist. Does that make me a total narcissist? I reckon so.
The knowledge that Sarah Dessen, an author I admire, is aware of my little stream of consciousness is amazing. I started this less than a week ago with the aim of spreading my enjoyment of her work. Now the object of my admiration actually ‘loves’ what I am doing. Excuse me while I let out a giant fangirl squee (and no I didn’t mean squeal).
My adventures in purchasing the four novels I have not as yet, continue. The three main book franchises here in fair Oz have informed me that they will need to be ordered from America. Their estimate of arrival is 6 weeks with an additional charge. I am not happy. Stupid booksellers.
On that note, the new podcast episode will be up presently and then I will be sitting down and starting up my newly purchased My So-Called Life dvd set. I am excited.
Just a reminder that the frequency of updates for both the blog and podcast are not typical, I am just in my week’s break at the moment.
Cheers and happy reading!