(Cover picture courtesy of Macmillan.)
Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended—and rather eccentric—family in an exclusive London neighborhood. IN spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesley. It comes as an unwelcome surprise when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.
She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any century.
I was pretty excited to read Ruby Red because it had such an awesome premise, but it fell flat. It wasn’t a terrible book, but it wasn’t a great book by any measure. There were some great elements and some things were done really well, but others…not so much.
Truly, I did not like Gwen one bit. She’s shallow, vain and behaves like a stereotypical teenage girl (as Gideon himself points out in the novel). But the catch is that she’s gorgeous but doesn’t know it, just like every single YA heroine out there. She does get better throughout the novel as she starts to understand time travel and the secret society surrounding it, but because she remains practically clueless for two thirds of the novel, things get painful. Things would have been much more interesting from Charlotte’s point of view because she actually had a clue as to what was going on, even if she didn’t actually inherit the time-traveling gene.
We never really do get a satisfactory explanation as to why Gwen’s mother changed her date of birth. She wanted to keep her out of the society supposedly because she saw the dark side of it. Well, where the heck is this dark side? Why doesn’t she sit Gwen down and explain why the society actually is evil and why it’s a bad idea to complete the circle. Secondly, why do YA heroines always fall for the drop-dead gorgeous guy who treats them like complete garbage? Gideon is a jerk, plain and simple. I guess I don’t understand the bad-boy attraction.
Okay, while there are a lot of negatives, there are some positives. Kerstin Gier has an interesting, sometimes humourous writing style and Anthea Bell did a great job translating Ruby Red from the original German. Sometimes translations don’t work out and the whole novel seems disjointed, but this was certainly not the case here. As for the premise that there is a secret time-travelling gene and people can control their time-travel by means of a chronograph, it was fantastic! I would have liked much more explanation, but the fact remains that Kerstin Gier has come up with an unique premise. That’s rare in YA.
I give this book 3/5 stars.