Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Ruby, where is your mother?
Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.
That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it's a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?
*Trigger Warning: Abuse*
Ruby was raised to be independent. As a child to save a fail marriage, Ruby’s father left when she was five, and her older sister Cora was fifteen. The loss of their dad sent their mother to the deep end, making Cora Ruby’s to go to person. Cora, had plans, working her job, doing well in school, got her a scholarship to go to university. Cora promised Ruby that she would always be there for her, but when Cora left for school was the last time Ruby saw her. Then it was just her mother and her, the two Ruby’s. Moving from place to place, Ruby helped her mom at their job, went to school, and even made some friends. It was in the yellow house, one of their most recent moves, where her mother left. Normally her mother leaves and two days later come back after she ran out of money or outwore her welcome. But this time was different, after two weeks with no mother, Ruby finally got caught living alone when her washer broke, and her landlords called social services. Being placed with Cora after all these years, Ruby had no idea what to expect from her sister. To find out her sister became a lawyer, married to Jamie a founder of the company UMe.com. Living in a big house in a gated community, no matter what, Ruby was not staying there. Trying to escape on the first night, Ruby was caught by Jamie and their neighbor Nate Cross. Determine to stick it though, Ruby decided she will stay at Cora’s for the next seven months until she turn eighteen and can be free of them all. Transferring to Jamie’s old school, Ruby finds herself at Perkins Day, the elite school she used to make fun of. English class gave Ruby the assignment to write a paper on what the word ‘Family’ meant to her. Coming from the girl who did not have one, it seemed as if life was playing a joke on her. But life starts to change for Ruby, as she and Cora starts moving into a routine, getting to know one another again. Ruby attends school and starts making friends, including the boy next door Nate, who seems to always come running when Ruby slips up. When discovering a dark secret about Nate, one that ruined his last relationship, Ruby wants to help, but not knowing how, just knowing she wants to save the boy that always seemed to be saving her.
Sarah Dessen, the one who ‘gets you’. Her books are famous for their teenage drama that are multilayered. From relationships, family, identity, you always know when picking up a Dessen story it is going to play with your heartstrings. With this you have Ruby, the independent girl who never wanted this from life. She moved in with Cora by forced of child services, planning on bailing the first night. This girl never had someone come into her life to stay, from her father (bailing at 5), sister (bailing at 8), to even her own mother (bailing at 17), Ruby knew in this world the only one she could count on was herself. But then Dessen gives us Nate. He is the boy-next-door, here-to-help, Mr. Positive, who swoops into Ruby’s life and shows her how the world is not so bad. Ruby begins to trust, accept and give help to others, which led to the character development between her and Cora. Reading about how that relationship went from close, to estranged, them back to somewhat close. Like any great Dessen book there are connections to her other stories. From Dreamland, Truth about Forever, This Lullaby and more, it is always amazing to see how Dessen can connect her stories, but not having them interfere with each other. Unlike the other Dessen book, this one is long, her second longest book, but it feels like it has been going on forever. From quick events, to everyday pace, this book does give the dragging on feeling. Still, it is all about healing, turning the girl from the yellow house, with no money and no ambition, to a new girl with a future, a family, and someone special at her side to see her through.