Truth, like love, isn’t always obvious.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby Brooks has never had a boyfriend. After moving to small-town La Luna, New Mexico following her mother’s untimely death, boys aren’t even on her radar. Ruby just wants to forget the last horrible year and blend in. But when she discovers an ancient pueblo ruin in the forest behind her house, and meets Ezra, a bitter recluse whose once-perfect face was destroyed in an accident he won’t talk about; Angel, La Luna’s handsome sheriff’s deputy, and Leo, a stranger who only appears near the ruin, Ruby finds herself teetering between love, mystery, and other worlds. What happened to Ezra’s face? And why is she so attracted to the one boy in town everyone despises? As Ruby unravels her own connections to both Ezra and the pueblo ruin, she’ll learn surfaces are deceiving. Especially in the heart of New Mexico, where spirits and legends aren’t always just campfire stories.
Set against a Northern New Mexico backdrop, Between Wild and Ruin is a young adult coming of age story that captures the wild and whimsical pulse of New Mexico through the eyes of teens Ruby Brooks, Angel Ruiz, and Ezra Lucero. The first book in the Wild and Ruin series, Between Wild and Ruin explores the time-tested credo ‘never judge a book by its cover’ through a paranormal lens, weaving Puebloan and Hispanic folklore and Southwest cultural narratives into tightly written, high-concept fiction ‘brimming with mystery, intrigue,’ and as Kirkus Reviews puts it, an “intriguing historical drama and an over-the top quadrangle romance.”
Plot: This first installment in Jennifer G. Edelson's Wild and Ruin series offers brisk, crisp, entertaining scenes of romance, and builds to a surprising, satisfying twist. The story moves slowly, though, and covers less ground than readers would expect in a novel that spans 400 pages. The finale, here, establishes an exciting premise for the series involving Pecos myth, the land of the dead, Watchers and True of Hearts, and an exciting cross-cultural romance. The journey to that exciting premise, though, is often slack and discursive, with the novel's suspense and supernatural elements overshadowed by the protagonist's being pursued by three viable romantic possibilities.
Prose/Style: Line to line, Between Wild and Ruin is crisp, brisk, and appealing. Edelson pairs superb descriptions of nature and her characters with sharp, memorable dialogue. The exchanges between protagonist Ruby and her aunt Lydia have a pleasurable warmth and verve; Ruby's many scenes of flirtation with her three romantic candidates, meanwhile, are tense and tender, though they might stand out more individually if there were fewer of them.
Originality: The story of a beautiful young woman courted by multiple young men with cosupernatural connections to ancient folklore is not new, of course. At times, especially before its last 100 pages, Between Wild and Ruin feels overly indebted to other supernatural romances, especially as characters like Leo and Angel make little impression beyond their looks and interest in Ruby. The Native American folklore that the story draws from, though, is fascinating, and the narrative becomes much fresher in the book's last quarter, when the (legitimately shocking!) truth of Leo's identity is revealed and Ruby dives fully into the story's fantastical elements.
Character Development: The protagonist, Ruby, is "Attractive… Smart… Mouthy", as one of her paramours puts it. She's also not especially compelling over the course of the novel, as the plot finds her not driven by any particular motivation or desire. Instead, she juggles three men who pursue her for her beauty, while her friends complain that she acts "like being gorgeous is a curse." Ruby makes some interesting choices as the narrative goes on, once she discovers the truth about Leo, but readers will not know her heart until after spending hundreds of pages with her.
Date Submitted: April 21, 2020
Jennifer G. Edelson’s Between Wild and Ruin is a page-turning, young adult paranormal romance.
The story centers on Ruby, nearly 18, who has moved to La Luna, New Mexico with her aunt to repeat her senior year because of the tailspin she went into after her mother’s untimely death in Santa Monica, California.
In between cryptic sightings of her dead mother at a local, archaeological ruin and a gigantic mountain lion, Ruby is torn between three very different men, all in their early 20s. Angel is the nice guy, the protective yet kind sheriff’s deputy. Ezra is the wounded hottie, a local boy who returned from college with a scarred face and an even nastier attitude. And then there’s the exceedingly handsome Leo. Strangely, only Ruby can see him, and Ruby only runs into him when she’s hiking or sketching that local ruin.
What could be a corny premise turns into an exhilarating, fun ride in Edelson’s adept hands. Her characters are smartly drawn, and readers will easily identify with Ruby, a strong yet insecure young artist on the verge of adulthood, who is still recovering from her tragic past. Edelson paints a beautiful picture of a small yet ancient New Mexican town, but it’s her spot-on, delicious dialogue that truly makes the book stand out. For example: “It’s kind of exciting,” Ashley says. “I mean, what if he’s the ghost of a Confederate soldier?” “Union,” Marta corrects her. “If Ruby’s gonna mack on a ghost, he better be Union.”
Fans of Twilight and modern fairy tales will fall in love with Ruby and root for her eventual romance. The only complaint—albeit minor—is the book’s slightly unsatisfying explanation/climax in which readers learn how Ezra became scarred.
That said, this is a lovely story with Native American lore skillfully woven into the narrative. Happily, the book’s ending hints that this standalone novel could become a series.
Also available as an ebook.
Debut author Edelson offers up a mix of romance, folklore, and mystery in this contemporary YA novel.
Teenage Ruby Brooks and her aunt Lydia “Liddy” Brooks recently moved from Los Angeles to La Luna, New Mexico to get a fresh start, as Ruby’s mother died 10 months ago. It turns out that Ruby has to repeat her senior year—and in a new school. Although her mother had been a model, Ruby couldn’t care less about people’s looks. Soon, she finds herself drawn to the town outcast, Ezra Lucero, whose face was scarred some years ago. However, she also has a mysterious teen named Leo on her mind, whom she met while hiking the ruins near her new home; one of the town sheriff’s deputies, Angel, has expressed interest in her as well. Despite having three young men to keep her occupied, Ruby finds time to try to learn more about her new surroundings—particularly all of the Native American history and lore that surrounds the fascinating Pecos Pueblo ruins, to which she feels a connection. Edelson’s novel manages to be both an intriguing historical tale and an over-the-top love-quadrangle romance. The will-she-or-won’t-she, this-guy-or-that-guy aspect of the story may turn some readers off, and others may be annoyed by the fact that Ruby is a beautiful and perfect heroine who thinks herself plain, although everyone tells her differently, which is something of a cliché. That said, readers who are interested in Native American lore may be engaged and entertained by those aspects of the story, and it will be no surprise if some of those readers find themselves wanting to dig deeper into the history of this novel’s setting.
A by-the-numbers romance, but a compelling historical drama.
Ruby is starting life over when she and her aunt move to a small town in New Mexico, which greets her with several surprises as she makes new friends and meets three handsome guys. Angel is a handsome deputy who immediately welcomes her to town but she can’t deny the connection she has to Ezra. Despite his bad reputation, Ruby knows there’s more to Ezra than his damaged face and past mistakes. Her discovery of ancient ruins up the mountain leads to an encounter with the ghost of her mother and a run-in with the mysterious Leo. After receiving a strange message, Ruby encounters a mountain lion and uncovers a shocking truth about their small town.
Being new in a small town is a prevalent theme throughout as Jennifer G. Edelson uses these dynamics and close-knit community to create conflict for Ruby’s relationships while also breathing life to fascinating mythology. Edelson embodies the reality of a small town with everyone’s business known by everyone which results in gossip and rumors. Ruby gets a firsthand experience when her new friends form vast opinions about her life, which complicates her relationship with Ezra as she grows closer to him and pushes passed the opinions of the town to see the person he is within. The theme of beauty is seen through the struggles Ezra faces that Edelson uses to explore a poignant message about inner beauty.
Edelson perfectly breathes new life in mythology by honoring the oral tradition of a small community and the ruins that bring to life Ruby’s destiny. The mythology aspects are woven into the plot as mysteries that hit upon the importance of a town’s history and pull Ruby into the center of a strange reality that leads her to a shocking revelation. The presence of her late mother ties into the plot as her presence stays with Ruby as she struggles to find her place, figure out her feelings, and understand relationships. The memory of her mother as a woman who relied on beauty and had a distance with Ruby contrasts to the relationship she has with her aunt whose warm presence provides her with both a guardian and a friend. Her strong home life gives her the love and understanding she uses to find the best within others and this honest support system guides her on her journey to find herself.
The story centers around relationships and romance as Ruby explores feelings she has toward the three guys vying for her attention. Angel has a warm and welcoming personality, which makes him the ideal small-town boy offering her understanding and stability. This contrasts against Ezra, who is the town pariah for both his damaged appearance and the former attitude he used to have that has alienated him from the community. Ezra is a complex and flawed character whose relationship with her offers passion and a journey of self-discovery while she provides him with an honest belief that he can become a better person. The mysterious Leo has a snarky personality and an arrogant attitude while having a beautiful face and alluring attraction. Each of the guys brings out a different side to her as she discovers what she wants in life and in a relationship while learning to follow her heart.
Between Wild and Ruin is a stunning story of legends, romance, and destiny with themes of starting over, small towns, beauty, and community.
Jennifer G. Edelson excels at pulling readers into her paranormal romance from the beginning, from the use of the first person to portray Ruby's encounters and psyche to descriptions of everyday efforts that turn into unexpected confrontations with past and present.
Ruby's encounter with an angry, disfigured teen, Ezra, leads her on an unforeseen journey far from the peaceful refuge of her aunt's home as she explores her inexplicable attraction to him, the equally mysterious chip on his shoulder that leads most to hate him, and circumstances which embroil them both in conflict.
As Ruby exposes Ezra's secrets, the connections between their lives become more obvious ("The forest behind my house feels hallowed, not threatening, but his answer unnerves me. I did faint. And I did see my mother, whatever that means. And Ezra knows a lot more about the pass and its ghosts than I do. I stare at him, peeling back layers that surprise me."). Trust (and something stronger) begins to build between them.
Adult readers of paranormal romance shouldn't be stymied by Ruby's age. Between Wild and Ruin is a crossover title not limited to young adult audiences alone, holding adult concerns and themes from love and sex to emotional confrontations with forces in their lives that both bring them together and threaten to tear them apart.
As Ruby draws closer to Ezra's secret, she begins to realize a horrible truth that changes everything and reveals why Ezra is lying to her.
Jennifer G. Edelson uses the first person to its best advantage, revealing Ruby's descent into situations which simultaneously challenge her belief system and love. Ruby's perceptions, concerns, and reactions are realistic and involving, keeping readers immersed in a compelling tale that forces both the protagonist and reader to consider exactly why Ezra is so different.
The story moves at a nice pace, characterization is strong, and the mystery is well done. Paranormal romance readers receive a strong character in Ruby, who follows through on her emotional connections and confronts matters beyond her mother's death and her changed life.
Highly recommended to mature teen through new adult and adult audiences, Between Wild and Ruin is a story that lingers in the mind long after its final revelation.
“Author Jennifer Edelson’s on-point dialogue, multicultural characters, and atmospheric setting, keenly conveys New Mexico’s rich cultural roots and narratives, weaving a story that incorporates both folklore and romance into an engrossing, unforgettable YA story.”
Between Wild and Ruin by Jennifer G Edelson follows Ruby, a teen transplanted from LA to La Luna after her mother’s death. She’s torn between the adventure of it all, and being removed from known friends and places. Ruby lives with her Aunt Liddy in a beautiful home a ways out of town. This tiny town in New Mexico holds unfathomable secrets just waiting to be discovered.
Hiking up the mountain near her home, Ruby discovers an ancient ruin from the Pecos Indians. Legend says it is a gateway to Ottomundo, the otherworld. Up at the ruin, Ruby meets the mysterious Leo, an impossibly handsome and utterly arrogant man who apparently cannot leave the mountain. As Ruby and Liddy get settled in, they begin to make friends. Angel and Torrance, two of the officers in tiny La Luna, are among the first to make them feel welcome. And Ruby makes a point to befriend Ezra, a scarred curmudgeon who begrudgingly allows Ruby into his world.
This story started out seeming very young adult contemporary—a story about a girl moving to a small town, making friends, and finding her new place in life. It gradually morphed into more of something urban fantasy. I felt the change was actually handled pretty well. I loved the history of the Pecos Indians and influence of Native American lore. It was a welcome change from urban fantasy full of werewolves and vampires. Considering Dracula is my favorite classic horror novel, it says a lot that I’ve come to loathe vampires in literature. It’s become trite, as have werewolves.
Wild & Ruin sadly doesn’t pass the Bechdel-Wallace test. Ninety-five percent of the female to female conversations revolve around boys. Ugh on that count. I also guessed pretty early on all of what Ezra was, his connection to Leo, and the truth of the mountain lion that stalks Ruby’s property. That partly might be my interest and knowledge of myth and legend, so I won’t say it’s really easy to guess. This was a pretty easy read. It flowed well and is a great addition to young adult urban fantasy.