Review: The Beat on Ruby’s Street by Jenna Zark

The Beat on Ruby's Street by Jenna Zark

The Beat on Ruby’s Street (Beat Street #1)
Jenna Zark
Dragon Moon Press
Published June 1, 2016 (Originally Published 2013)

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About The Beat on Ruby’s Street

The last thing eleven-year-old Ruby Tabeata expected to happen on her way to a Jack Kerouac reading was to be hauled to the police station.

It’s 1958 and Ruby is the opposite of a 1950s stereotype: fierce, funny and strong willed, she is only just starting to chart her course in a family of Beat Generation artists in Greenwich Village. Ruby dreams of meeting famous poets while becoming one herself; instead, she’s accused of trying to steal fruit from a local vendor and is forced to live in a children’s home. As Ruby struggles to return to family and friends, she learns her only choice is to follow her heart.

Join Ruby’s journey as she finds unexpected friendships, the courage to rebel against unjust authority and the healing power of art in this inspiring middle-grade novel by Jenna Zark.

The Beat on Ruby's Street on Goodreads

My Review

Ruby is a precocious girl living in Greenwich Village in the 1950s whose family gets into trouble after she’s accused of stealing. Her parents are pretty unconventional by 1950s standards: not married, sending her to “school” at a store run by some friends, and teaching her about Beat poets and art. Ruby writes poetry of her own, and looks up to other poets like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

I enjoyed the writing– Jenna Zark has a way of writing in this rambly, quirky style that reminds me of the way a chatty twelve-year-old would talk. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the antics of Ruby and her friends, and would have liked to have seen them all together on the page more often.

The story was interesting, and I didn’t have a hard time reading it. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. I think the characters kind of outshine the plot. The relationships between Ruby and her parents felt pretty realistic and complicated, and it’s those relationships that really drive the story forward.

The only thing that really gave me any pause is the use of a couple racial slurs. These were probably more commonly used in the 1950s, but they’re not used without offense now. I wish that the author had either just used updated language since it was only a couple places, or had written a note to explain why those words were used.

Other than that, I enjoyed reading THE BEAT ON RUBY’S STREET. If you like the 1950s time period or quirky narrators, this may be worth adding to your shelf.

The Beat on Ruby's Street on Amazon

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Major characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
A few uses of racial slurs. Several references to “gypsies” and once to Asian food as “Oriental.” While these may have been commonly used during the 1950s, I wish the author had used different words or at least written a note in the book explaining why those words were used.

UPDATE 11/10/20: Jenna Zark has added a note in the book explaining the use of the racial slurs that appear in the story.

Nudity/Romance/Sexual Content
A naked man poses for a portrait in Ruby’s mother’s art studio.

Spiritual Content
Some references to Zen ways of thinking.

Violent Content
A woman grabs Ruby, painfully twisting her arm. Ruby and another girl get into a fist fight.

At the suggestion of a Beat poet, Ruby decides to go on a hunger strike after she’s taken from her parents’ home and placed in a Children’s Home. The woman at the Children’s Home describes what will happen to Ruby’s body if she doesn’t start eating– she’ll be sleepy and faint and eventually her organs will begin to shut down.

Drug Content
Ruby’s dad drinks alcohol. Ruby pours a bottle out because she says he’s had enough.

Note: I received a free copy of THE BEAT ON RUBY’S STREET in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.

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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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