I used to be an avid reader. The books on my nightstand changed every week and the city library did not hold any new secrets to me. But somewhere in puberty it went all wrong. I valued boys over books ( and I see my mistake now since books make MUCH better friends) and I had the tendency to buy semi-intellectual books that did not interest me much anyway… So it was a big surprise to me when I got hooked on Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier. And by hooked on I mean the “Oh em gee! It’s already 4 am and I have to get up at 9… one more page…” kind of hooked.
“Kerstin Who?” I can hear you ask bored and lazy in your Ikea office chairs upon which i go into full fangirl mode and scream “Kerstin fucking GIER!” from the top of my fangirling lungs. Ruby Red and the Gem Trilogy did not really make it out of their German boxbed so no hard feelings there… Admittedly : Germany went completely wild for Gier’s books but the rest of Europe kept oddly quiet. A perfect example was my lengthy and burdensome quest to find these books in English in my local book shops (yes ALL my local book shops in the not that small city of Antwerp). They did have them in Dutch but the reassured me these books did not sell exceptionally well. Some of them even gaped at me as if I just asked them if they also delivered “Oliver Twist” By Tolstoy.
But back to the book : Ruby red is about a fun and palpable girl Gwenn who’s quite the odd one out regarding her family. Her fair niece Charlotte is said to have inherited a specific gen which makes her special. “She’s not like the other girls” is what Gwens aunt Glenda always used to say just before making some remark about how inferior Gwen and her family are. But when Gwen travels back in time ends up in – lets call them “awkward”, situations, it seems that Charlotte was not that special after all. But time travelling is not all fun and games, Gwen finds out soon enough. With the somewhat arrogant but oh so handsome Gedion de Villiers at her side she travels back to the past and is forced to learn more about history, friendship and the dangers of the secret order – the order of Count de Saint Germain, who controls the time machine or ,Chronograph as it is called, and was called together to serve the time travellers.
So why do I love this book as much as I do? Maybe because Gwenn grows on you. Every self-respecting and somewhat feminist girl identifies with her and her best friend Lesley. Second of all because although Gedion at first look is a scumbag son of a bitch bastard… you fall in love with him! And I think those two together with a kickass story are the best ingredients for a best selling young adult book! The story is fast paced and does not tend to slow down or bore at any moment – also the reason why it sticks to your hands like super glue and you can’t let go of it till the last page.
Ruby red is well written. I must admit that I have read better pieces of literature but Gier gives a clear and foremost matching voice to her in depth characters what spices the writing up just that little bit to keep you going.
I love what Gier did with the role of the mother. A lot of YA writers tend to shovel the parents away. They board them off to some far away place, kill them off in the past or in the first few pages of the book or let some scrawny ass bad guy abduct them. Gwen’s mother actually plays a big part in this story and she has her own firm voice and her own firm ideas about what is going on. She’s a warm and hearty mother, a mother every teenage girl wishes she had. I’m glad Gier did not take the easy way out but actually gave the family quite a big part in the book.
Kuddo’s have to be given as well for the setting. Yes, for the ‘older’ young adult fans it may look a bit easy and typical. The order and the secrecy, the romance and even the protagonists may look simple and stereotyped , but on the other hand they all fit together in a big and cosey, YA-heavenly whole.