Review: In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton

In the Neighborhood of True

In the Neighborhood of True
Susan Kaplan Carlton
Algonquin Young Readers
Available April 9, 2019

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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.

In the Neighborhood of True on Goodreads

My Review

I found IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE to be utterly addicting to read. I’d sneak a few more pages in while microwaving the baby’s lunch. Or while waiting for my older daughter to finish brushing her teeth before bed. Anytime I had more than 30 seconds free, I jumped right back into the book.

I loved Ruth’s voice. She’s frank, pragmatic and constantly caught me off guard (in a great way) with colorful descriptions of things. At first she doesn’t seem bothered by hiding her identity. She values fitting in so much more than her faith, which feels especially far away after her father’s death. She knows she’s being shallow about it. But as things happen and she begins to form connections within her faith community, the racism in her debutante community only becomes more stark and uncomfortable to Ruth. I thought that progression felt very real, raw, and powerful.

The only thing I didn’t love about IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE was an element of the ending. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll add a spoiler section at the end of this post to talk about that. Over all, though, I really enjoyed the book. Check out the content section below for notes on those topics.

Recommended for ages 16 up.

Ruth, her sisters, and her mother are Jewish. Other characters are white. Many of the upscale clubs and community events are still closed to Jews and other races at the time the story happens. The story condemns those attitudes.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
15-20 instances of mild to strong profanity.

Romance/Sexual Content
Brief kissing between boy and girl. Ruth undresses with a boyfriend. She and her sister discuss sex– which her sister, who’s in college, seems to have a lot of. Her sister sends her a box of condoms. Ruth makes plans to have sex with her boyfriend on prom night. The scene describes the lead into the event but not much of the event itself.

Spiritual Content
Ruth attends synagogue services with her mom and sister. Most of the sermon that’s related to us has to do with social justice issues.

Violent Content
Ruth’s mother tells her about a young black man who was lynched. One of the boys in Ruth’s friend circle makes some ugly racist comments. See spoiler section for more.

Drug Content
Ruth’s friends offer her Southern Comfort, which gets her very drunk the first time she has it. She drinks some again another time.

Note: I received a free copy of IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which don’t cost the reader anything, but when used, help support my blog.

In the Neighborhood of True on Amazon

About Susan Kaplan Carlton

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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,ElleMademoiselle, 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.

A bomb destroys a building. No one is hurt, but it’s a building dear to many people, and clearly awful and traumatic.

So here’s my issue with the end of the book: I liked the ending as a whole. Ruth does the right thing, stands up for herself and her community, makes a place for herself– her real self. I loved that. But I felt like she ultimately chose sides.

One of her debutante friends continued to reach out to her after the trial and after Ruth goes public with her faith. But instead of acknowledging that reach across the gap, Ruth sort of retreated to her side and said she was too busy for this friendship. It’s a pretty realistic ending, so I get it.

I guess I just wanted those girls to be bigger than the moment they were in, if that makes sense. I wanted them to be able to reach across lines of race and faith and say those things didn’t matter, and I didn’t feel like that was the message there. Seriously, though, I loved the book other than that and of course, some of the content.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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