Between Wild and Ruin
Seventeen-year-old Ruby and her Aunt Liddy move to New Mexico to start afresh after Ruby’s mother dies. While struggling with loss, Ruby is pulled in multiple directions by various love interests demanding her attention. Ezra is a scarred twenty-year-old who chased a girl to college and came back humiliated. Angel is a young police officer in the small town of La Luna who relentlessly wants to be more than friends with Ruby. And the mysterious Leo only shows up when Ruby goes to an old ruin to sketch. She’s drawn to the ruin by mysterious forces, both repulsed and intrigued by Leo’s intensity.
Between Wild and Ruin is, beat for beat, very close to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga, a regressive teen vampire romance series which, thirteen years ago, captured the hearts of high school and college-aged girls everywhere. In Between Wild and Ruin, instead of vampires vs. werewolves, it’s cops vs. demons vs. mountain lions with a bit of a twist at the end.
I half-wondered if this book was a satire on the teen paranormal romance craze in the late 2000s, as the author counts Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk among her influences. Between Wild and Ruin branches off into its own unique story eventually, but it takes a while. The story struggles with some basic developmental elements, including building a solid enough world for its characters to live in, and creating characters that are multi-faceted enough to want to get to know.
This book made a good try at building interesting lore and a compelling setting. Where it fell short was in the characters. While I wasn’t keeping track fastidiously, I don’t think the female characters in the story passed the Bechtel test. There were too many conversations where two or more women talked about the male characters, and nothing else.
The narrative and dialogue also assumed a character must be a certain way because another character said so. For example, when Ruby’s many suitors say she’s strong, courageous, talented, and beautiful, the textual evidence to confirm this was missing. The book was missing some interaction with the world beyond the dialogue. In the end, the story boiled down to a girl talking about boys with her friends, and any supernatural world-building was just a flimsy framework for teen romance, love triangles, and forbidden kissing. A romance between Ruby and one of her suitors developed too fast and intensely to be believable.
Between Wild and Ruin has the elements of a good story: a creative foundation, solid lore, and the potential for interesting characters to grow and change within it. What it missed was the pacing and attention to detail to make it into a great story.
|Jennifer G. Edelson
|Bad Apple Books
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