“Ah, so in the neighborhood of true.’ Davis one-dimpled me. ‘That’s what we say when something’s close enough.”Susan Kaplan Carlton, In the Neighborhood of True
When Susan Kaplan Carlton began to write In the Neighborhood of True (publication date: April 9, 2019; $17.95), she was inspired by historic events that had taken place in a synagogue where her family once worshipped. She never imagined that news in 2017 and 2018 would lend new relevance to the violent anti-Semitism she addresses in her YA novel. Partly inspired by the Atlanta temple bombing of 1958, In the Neighborhood of True is the thoughtful and provoking story of Ruth Robb, a young woman trying to fit in to the “in” crowd in her new hometown by hiding her Jewish heritage. Susan Kaplan Carlton’s past historical YA novels have been praised for their “believable, rich, likable characters” (Kirkus Reviews) and “important” (Booklist) topics relevant to teens’ lives. In this novel of the 50s Jim Crow South, Kaplan Carlton’s gorgeous prose invokes a time filled with sweet tea and debutante balls as well as cross burnings and hate crimes.
In the sweltering summer of 1958, Ruth Robb and her family move to Atlanta from New York City after the sudden death of her father. A fish out of water and grieving, Ruth meets the ruling “pastel posse” and their little pink book of manners. She quickly falls for the charming and popular Davis, who teaches her about football games and the Country Club, and is the perfect escort. Eager to fit in and to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a debutante, Ruth hides her Jewish heritage and her attendance at Sabbath services in a segregated Atlanta. Then a hate crime tears apart her community, and Ruth is forced to confront the prejudice head on and speak up about injustice.
In the Neighborhood of True will be released on April 9th, 2019
In the Neighborhood of True has been a touching and eye-opening read for me. Carlton develops an incredible story with complex characters and dynamic relationships throughout the course of the novel.
To begin with, Ruth Robb, a clever and multi-faceted girl stole my heart from the beginning of the novel to the end. She is snarky, a bit sarcastic and has a huge heart. Part of the reason I fell in love with Ruth is that I see myself in her. Not only am I a “words girl” like Ruth, I am a Jewish teen growing up in a troublesome time. Seeing Ruth’s bravery has inspired me to stand up to the anti-semitism in my life. In YA there is an underrepresentation of Jewish characters and culture and I am beyond thrilled that Carlton has written a novel with an honest representation of what it is like to be Jewish in a tumultuous time.
Ruth is torn between the two parts of her world: the pre-debutante part and the Jewish part. In her pre-deb world, she falls head-over-heels for Davis, the All-American perfect boyfriend and enjoys spending time with her traditionally Southern group of friends for T&E (Tea and Etiquette). Ruth trades in synagogue time for time with her “pastel posse” and her boyfriend. She feels comfortable with these new people yet there is one barrier between them: Ruth has not told them she’s Jewish. Ruth is afraid that telling them the truth will prevent her from advancement in her community.
This book was an emotional read for me because it is so easy to get attached to the characters and I have a personal connection to the subject matter. While the events of this book are a bit hard to read because of the shock value, In the Neighborhood of True is an important book to read for people of all ages but especially young adults living in this time.