Gier, K. (2011). Ruby red. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Plot Summary: Gwyneth Shepard has spent most of her life waiting for her cousin Charlotte to travel back in time. Charlotte is the “gene carrier” in the family and has been training for years on mastering different languages, acquiring many talents, and even learning “the mysteries” of her families’ secret society heritage. Unfortunately, it was Gwyneth who was thrust unexpectedly into the past, not Charlotte. Now, Gwyneth has no idea what to do and has more questions than anyone is willing to answer. To make matters worse, she has to travel into the past with an arrogant and obnoxious boy who constantly gets on her nerves – and whom she can’t stop thinking about.
Critical Analysis: Translated by Anthea Bell from German to English, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier is the first book in a series of three novels. A Booklist starred review by Ilene Copper writes, “What makes this such a standout is the intriguingly drawn cast, stars and supporting players both, beginning with Gwen, whose key feature is her utter normality” A School Library Journalreview by Kimberly G. Giarratano also confers with Cooper when she states that, “Aside from her special abilities (she can also see ghosts), she is every bit the typical teenager who bickers with her family, snoops with her best friend, and crushes on the snooty Gideon.” Not only are Gier’s characters well developed and likable, but the story itself will keep readers interested and wondering what happens next. Emily Griffin from Children’s Literature writes, “Gier works to create intrigue and suspense during an exposition heavy first novel.” Although following the time-traveling timelines can be a bit hard to keep up with, Gier does an excellent job of keeping the readers thoroughly vested in finding out what makes Gwyneth special, who the Guardians are, and cheering for Gwyneth and Gideon through their adventures back in time.
In Gier’s novel, readers will find Gwyneth to be charmingly normal even when she travels back into the past. She never really tries to be someone she’s not and can’t help but be a twenty-first century teenager. On one occasion in the past Gwyneth is left in a room to speak with some gentlemen from 1759. Here she tries to explain to them the concept of a photograph using her cell phone. She says, “I shook my head and held the mobile up so that Lord Brompton and Rakoczy appeared on the display. ‘Smile, please. There, that’s it.’ There hadn’t been any flash because the sunlight was so bright, which was a pity. A flash would surely have impressed the pair of them” (p. 230). Gwyneth is also humorous even when her life has just turned upside down. One example is when she is waiting to travel back to the future and stumbles upon an old letter that took some time to arrive to its destination. She says, “Nine weeks for a letter to arrive! Okay, so I seemed to be in a period when letters were still delivered by carrier pigeon. Or, maybe snail mail – using actual snails” (p. 143). Fortunately, Gwyneth is not the only character that is well developed into the story. Lindsey, Gwyneth’s best friend and only “normal” person who knows about Gwyneth’s time traveling lineage, adds quite a bit of comic relief to the story as well. With a passion for investigating mysteries by “Googling,” Lindsey keeps Gwyneth grounded and helps her to try and understand some of the information she has learned from the Guardians and from her travels back in time. According to Lindsey, “Investigating mysteries must be in my blood. Maybe I’ll study history too and specialize in old myths and ancient writings. And then I’ll be like Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code. I’ll look better of course, and hire a really hot guy to be my assistant” (p. 264).
Intrigue and suspense start from the beginning of the novel to the end of the book, which by no means is the end of the story itself. However, readers will enjoy learning the mysteries behind the previous time travelers, the cryptic visions of Aunt Maddy, and the meaning behind the “Circle of Twelve.” For example, Gwyneth’s mother tries to explain some of the mystery when she says, “Twelve numbers, twelve time travelers, twelve gemstones, twelve musical keys, twelve Zodiacal ascendants, twelve steps in the alchemical process of making the philosopher’s stone…” (p. 110). Of course, none of this makes sense to Gwyneth (or the reader) and but both will slowly learn about what some things mean as the novel progresses. Another intriguing aspect is that the leaders of the secret society don’t even know some of their own “secrets.” For example, one of the leaders explains to Gwyneth, “The Secret of the Twelve will be revealed when the blood of all twelve time travelers has been read into the chronograph. That’s why the Circle has to be closed. It is the great task that we must perform” (p. 170). What happens after the Circle is closed is anyone’s guess, since no one seems to know – which adds to the great mystery surrounding the actual purpose of the time travelers in the first place. For Gwyneth, her part in this mystery is also cryptic. For example, her stone is the Ruby and her piece in this puzzle is explained as, “Projectio! Time flows on, both present and past, Ruby red is the first and is also the last” (p.110).
Filled with suspense, mystery, and romance readers will find Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier a fun and exciting read from beginning to end. Readers who like Ruby Red will also enjoy other historical fiction books such as The Luxe by Anna Godbersen and Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore. Readers who enjoy time traveling novels will enjoy After Eden by Helen Douglas and Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston. This novel is recommended for readers in grades 7 and up.
Copper, Ilene. (2011, Apr. 15). It is supposed to be Charlotte. [Review of the book Ruby Red, written by Kerstin Gier]. Booklist. Books in Print. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:3959/DetailedView.aspx?hreciid=|32499368|35807910&mc=USA#
Dolamore, Jaclyn. (2014). Dark Metropolis. New York, NY: Hyperion.
Douglas, Helen. (2013). After Eden. New York, NY: MacMillan
Giarratano, Kimberly. G. (2011, Jun. 1). Gwyneth Shepard, 16, was born into an offbeat English family. [Review of the book Ruby Red, written by Kerstin Gier]. School Library Journal. Books in Print. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:3959/DetailedView.aspx?hreciid=|32499368|35807910&mc=USA#
Godbersen, Anna. (2008). The Luxe. Saint Louis, MO: Turtleback Books.
Griffin, Emily. (2011). The first title in German author Kerstin Gier’s “Ruby Red” trilogy. [Review of the book Ruby Red, written by Kerstin Gier]. Children’s Literature. Children’s Comprehensive Database. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=5&isbn=9780805092523
Livingston, Lesley. (2011). Once Every Never. New York, NY: Penguin.