Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child

Lauren Child has several series with strong, likable characters such as Charlie & Lola, and Clarice Bean. Ruby Redfort is a strong character as well, who makes her first appearance in the Clarice Bean series. Ruby is patterned after the hard-boiled detective stories of the past. She's a tough-talking, wise-cracking, sassy, code-breaking genius in middle school who manipulates those around her by lying, cheating, stealing, using her brains, and trying to manage a friendship when solving a mystery involving a potential heist of a jade statue from a museum.

Here's the problem... a hard-boiled detective doesn't translate particularly well into a young adult story. Or maybe it does if you are thirteen years old versus 50. The hard-boiled detective is usually a cynical, single person who has questionable virtues, is rebellious, insubordinate, and thinks the police force is inadequate. I found it hard to connect with Ruby and her disrespect and meanness to other school students, as well as, helping her best friend cheat in school and skipping out of classes. I didn't find her very engaging or likable in sections. I admired her brains and courage -coupled with humor- in the face of death but she doesn't give most people the time of day and thinks of them as lunkheads. This pride along with the other vices made me question the messages being sent to young readers.

Oftentimes if I don't' connect with the character I find the plot usually keeps me going as the story unfolds. This rhythm develops in a mystery plot as one clue exposes some truth that leads to another clue and yet another, with each one presenting new challenges to the detective either personally or as an obstacle to solving the crime. This doesn't always happen in this story where some sections are slow and some clues too obvious such as the notepad. An exciting climax (albeit unbelievable) with fast pacing will please most readers at the end of the book.

Also true to the hard-boiled detective there are plenty of American vernacular words. Ruby has a soft spot for Clancy Crew (play on Nancy Drew - Lauren Child humor) and her own code of conduct that is different than most other teenagers. Readers can live vicariously through this rebel and her rebel clothes. She is surrounded by incompetent adults and has some spy gadgets that I kept expecting to do more. I love gadgets. However, I don't think the author does. She doesn't mention any use of  mobile devices or researching the Internet which made me wonder about the message machine Ruby uses to skip school. Seemed like she should just have a cell phone. It was awkward and stood out. I don't think the author wanted to deal with a cell phone because too many sticky situations would have needed an explanation as to why Ruby didn't make a phone call especially the ending. If you like mysteries and want to be a tough rebel give this book a go.

Other mysteries with genius characters: Stormbreaker & Steel Trapp
Reading Level 5.3
3 out of 5 Smileys

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