Goodreads: Remarkably Ruby
Series: Emmie & Friends #6
Age Category: Middle Grade
Ruby and Mia used to be best friends, but now Mia seems to find Ruby embarrassing. While Mia is sort of popular and running for student president, Ruby prefers to fade into the background. She’s even hesitant to join poetry club–even though she loves poetry. In this sixth installment of the Emmie & Friends series, the background character known as Baked Bean Girl finally gets to tell her own story.
I associate Terri Libenson’s Emmie & Friends series with empathetic looks at the middle school experience. The books (each one can be read as a standalone) generally focus on concerns like outgrowing friends and making new ones, finding one’s identity, and navigating one’s place in school and at home. So I was incredibly excited when I learned that the background character formerly known as Baked Bean Girl (because she was always running to the bathroom after having a fiber-filled snack) was finally getting her own book and her own story. I was not disappointed. Remarkably Ruby is a heartfelt story about repairing friendships and finding one’s voice.
As with most of the other books, Remarkably Ruby follows two perspectives. Ruby tells her side of the story–feeling lost now that her best friend Mia refuses to talk to her anymore. And Mia explains how, from her perspective, Ruby is just too embarrassing to have around, especially now that Mia is running for student president. Ruby wants things to go back to the way they were, while Mia just wishes Ruby would leave her alone. The dual narrative allows readers to see how Mia thinks she is right and reasonable, even though her actions clearly hurt Ruby.
Ruby, however, has a lot of growth of her own, making the leap to join the newly formed poetry club, and even volunteering to read some of her work aloud at the talent show. Ruby will feel relatable to many readers as she struggles to feel comfortable at school, especially since she towers over many of her peers and feels a bit awkward in her body. She just wants to find a place where she feels she belongs, and the empowering part of her story is that she does start to take steps to find that place. Ruby’s courage is inspirational, and thinking about it admittedly makes me feel a bit teary-eyed.
As with the other books, Remarkably Ruby ends with a twist that gives new meaning to the stories the readers just read. This one truly shocked me! So even readers who are accustomed to Libenson’s narratives may find this one a welcome surprise.
Remarkably Ruby is another engaging installment in the Emmie & Friends series. As always, I appreciated Libenson’s commitment to depicting all of her characters sympathetically, allowing readers to enter in their experiences and try to understand what they are going through. Middle school is not easy. But Libeson’s books invite readers to understand that everyone has their own unique story, and their own struggles. The books remind readers to be kind, and to not make assumptions about what other people are experiencing. I love that the series is ongoing, as the message to reach out and to choose empathy never grows old.