“I first felt it in the school canteen on Monday morning. For a moment it was like being on a roller coaster when you’re racing down from the very top. It lasted only two seconds, but that was long enough for me to dump a plateful of mashed potatoes and gravy all over my school uniform. I managed to catch the plate just in time, as my knife and fork clattered to the floor.”
So begins the story of sixteen-year-old Gwyneth Sophie Elizabeth Shepherd and her ancestors’ peculiar history in Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red*. This 324-page teen novel is wrapped in a red metallic jacket, its cover bursting with silver metallic floral design. In the top-middle portion of the book is a portrait of a young woman with long, wavy hair wearing what appears to be a crimson dress.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the cover. The floral pattern takes up almost the entire space, making it look almost too crowded. When I first saw the book, my initial thought was that it looked like something that came out of my grandmother’s age-old chest of memorabilia. However, when I started reading Ruby Red, I realized that the book design had somehow served its purpose.
No Sparkling Vampires Or Buff Werewolves. Just A Chronograph, A Few History Lessons, And A Lot of Dizzy Spells.
While teen fiction is not my area of expertise, I must say that the popularity of the genre – especially that of dark teen novels – has skyrocketed since the release of the Twilight Saga. Because I am not an avid reader of teen fiction, all teen novels are the same to me, dark or not. Ruby Red is the first of three books written by German author Kerstin Gier. Like Halo, I was wary about reading Ruby Red, mainly because I didn’t know whether or not I would be able to finish it.
Thanks to Kerstin Gier’s humor and knack for adventure, I managed to finish the book – and I actually enjoyed it. The fact that it had nothing to do with vampires and werewolves was already a relief. (Note: I can count in one hand how many vampire books I’ve read, or attempted to read.) Ruby Red is not a book about vampires. It is a book about time travel.
Uncontrolled time travel usually announces itself a few minutes in advance, but sometimes hours or even days ahead. The symptoms are sensations of vertigo in the head, stomach, and/or legs. Many gene carriers also speak of a headache similar to migraine.
The first journey back in time – also known as the initiation journey – takes place between the sixteenth and seventeeth years of the gene carrier’s life.
FROM THE CHRONICLES OF THE GUARDIANS,
VOLUME 2: GENERAL LAWS OF TIME TRAVEL
On the subject of time travel, I thought of two YA books I’ve read: Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me (winner of the Newbery Medal), and Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox. Because one of the main characters in Ruby Red was named Gideon, I thought of Linda Buckley-Archer’s The Time Travelers Trilogy which I first saw at Barnes & Noble. The series also referred to as The Gideon Trilogy, Gideon the Cutpurse, and Enlightenment of Peter Schock. It would be an interesting point of discussion among book clubs and book lovers the inspiration behind Gier’s novel. Readers may want to look into the connection between Ruby Red and The Gideon Trilogy, if at all.
While time travel might be a hardcore topic, Ruby Red is nowhere near hardcore nor is it too scientific. It is very light and comical, with some historical references. Gier handled the matter well, telling the story of a sixteen-year-old girl and the age-old secrets that run in her family.
No Cheesy Love Triangle. Just Gwyneth and Gideon, Lucy and Paul and the Guardians That Are After Them.
“You’re not ordinary, Gwyneth,” he whispered as he began stroking my hair. “You’re totally, absolutely ordinary. You don’t need the magic of any raven to be special to me.” He leaned as close as he could get, with his head and arms through the opening of the confessional window.
Believe it or not, the excerpt above did not appear until later in the book. One of the things I liked about Ruby Red was that it was not heavy on romance. Nor was it obvious. It was a slow, subtle, but smooth transition from time travel adventures to a budding romance.
The storyline of the book is so intriguing that it overpowers any cheesy scenario between the characters. I got caught up in the mystery surrounding the families of the Montrose and the de Villiers, and not so much in the love story.
That is not to say I wasn’t expecting a romance to blossom. For me, it’s a given in any teen fiction like Ruby Red, especially if the excerpt on the back of the book is highly suggestive of romance. More than the love story itself, I particularly enjoyed the clash of personalities between Gwyneth and Gideon. The classic cat-and-dog scenario.
“Oh no?” Gideon’s voice was heavily sarcastic. “Then what, for instance, do you know about history?”
“Enough!” I said. Hadn’t I just gotten an A on a history test?
“Really? Who came to the throne after George I?”
I hadn’t the faintest. “Georege II?” I said, guessing.
Aha! He looked disappointed. I seemed to have guessed right.
“And which royal house replaced the Stuarts in 1702 and why?”
Dammit. “Er… we haven’t got to that yet,” I said.
“So I see.” Gideon turned to the others. “She doesn’t know anything about history. She can’t even speak appropriately. Wherever we go, she’d stick out like a sore thumb. And she has no idea what’s at stake. She wouldn’t just be totally useless, she’d endanger the entire mission!”
I ask you! So I couldn’t even speak appropriately? Well, I could think of several highly appropriate names I’d have liked to call him.
While I enjoyed reading about the “epic battle” between Gwyneth and Gideon, my favorite characters in the book are Lucy and Paul. They only appeared a few times in the book, but Lucy and Paul are the true adventure-seekers. They are the reason why the story moves the way it does. I was especially pleased with how Gier started and ended the book – in full circle.
Afterthoughts. No, Really, Just Afterthoughts.
I like it when books surprise me. I was initially not fond of Ruby Red, but as I slowly uncovered the secrets of Gwyneth’s family, I found myself enjoying it. (I am now on the hunt for Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green, the second and third books respectively.) If you’re a geek like me, and if you’re interested in time travel – and wouldn’t mind humor on the side – then I recommend Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red. No, really. =)
*The GatheringBooks Team would like to thank Tara from Zeitghost Media and the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing us a copy of the book.