Synopses & Reviews
I'm not usually a reckless person. What happened the summer of my junior year was not about recklessness. It was about the way a moment, a single moment, can change things and make you decide to try to be someone different.
Ruby McQueen is a sixteen-year-old high school student with the name, she thinks, of a rodeo cowgirl porn star, or, maybe worse, a Texas beauty queen runner-up. Her mother, Ann, one of the town librarians, was reading too much Southern literature before Ruby was born, and Chip, Ruby's father, who was already dreaming of Nashville stardom, thought it would make a great stage name someday. Soon after Chip Jr. was born, Chip left to try his luck in the music business and ended up at the Gold Nugget Amusement Park one state over. He returns occasionally for visits that turn Ann's heart upside down, and Ruby's stomach inside out.
It is summer in the northwest town of Nine Mile Falls, a place where brown bears sometimes show up in the shopping mall and people in hang gliders soar down the mountains and sometimes get stuck dangling from the trees. Ruby, ordinarily dubbed The Quiet Girl, finds herself hanging out with gorgeous, rich, thrill-seeking Travis Becker. With Travis, Ruby can be someone she's never been before: Fearless. Powerful. But Ruby is in over her head, and finds she is risking more and more when she's with him.
In an effort to keep Ruby occupied and mend her own broken heart, Ann drags Ruby to the weekly book club she runs for seniors. At first Ruby can't imagine a more boring way to spend an afternoon, but she is soon charmed by the Casserole Queens (named, quite ironically, after women who bring casseroles to new widowers' homes in hopes of snagging a husband). When the group discovers one of their own members is the subject of the tragic love story they are reading, Ann and Ruby ditch their respective obsessions to spearhead a reunion between the long-ago lovers. But this mission turns out to be more than just a road trip. Somewhere along the way Ruby and her mother learn the true meaning of love and freedom from it, individual purpose, and the real ties that bind.
This lyrical, multi-generational story of love, loss, and redemption speaks to everyone who has ever been in love and lived to tell the tale.
"Readers...will find thoughtful and authentically inspiring messages about trusting in themselves enough to insist on a love that means more than being someone's 'honey, baby, sweetheart.'" Publishers Weekly
"Readers will immediately fall for Ruby with her humor and her wry way of looking at the world. Their hearts will break as she makes bad decision after bad decision, and they'll cheer as she comes to some important realizations, with the help of the Casserole Queens." School Library Journal
"Caletti writes a compelling, multigenerational story about teens and parents who simultaneously weather heartbreak and find new self-worth, enriching the telling with the Northwest setting, folksy wisdom, and Ruby's strong, sure voice." Gillian Engberg, Booklist
About the Author
Deb Caletti grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. She steals her best lines from her mother, her kids, and the dog, who doesn't seem to mind. When she is not writing or reading books, Deb is a painter, a lyricist, and a 2001 recipient of the Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship for literature. You can visit her at www.debcaletti.com.
Reading Group Guide
A Simon Pulse Guide for Reading Groups
Honey, Baby, Sweetheart
By Deb Caletti
About The Book
Ruby McQueen has never had trouble being good-getting along with her family, doing well in school, and making good decisions. Which is why nobody is more surprised than she when bad boy Travis Becker sucks her into his world of privilege and lawlessness and she follows so willingly. But when Ruby does the unthinkable, she sets in motion a madcap multigenerational adventure, as those close to her do everything they can to save her from herself. Can one summer change what Ruby knows about true love, family, fate, and her own heart?
- Ruby's involvement with Travis Becker is out of character for her, but she says, "It was about the way a moment, a single moment, could change things and make you decide to try to be someone different." What does Ruby feel is her pivotal moment? Do you agree? Who else in the story has moments like the one Ruby describes?
- Travis believes that Ruby is fearless, and so she becomes that way around him. How much of our personalities is defined by how others see us? Does Ruby succeed in becoming truly fearless? On what do you think Travis is basing his vision of Ruby?
- In what ways are Ruby and her mother similar when it comes to romantic relationships? In what ways are they different? What do they learn about romance over the course of the summer?
- Discuss Ruby's relationship with Chip Jr. What role does Chip Jr. play in her life? What role does he play within the family as a whole?
- How is Joe Davis different from Ruby's father? What does he bring to the McQueen family? How do his struggles with the church sign reflect his beliefs about spirituality?
- How do the members of the Casserole Queens feel about Ruby? About each other? Why does Ruby enjoy her time with them so much?
- Why is it so important to the Casserole Queens that Charles and Lillian be reunited? What does each member of the group contribute to the plan? What does each member gain from the reunion?
- Ruby says that, had they known Lillian had so little time left, they would have hurried their trip along. Do you think this is true? What did they gain by taking their time on the way to meet Charles? Do you think that Lillian would have wanted them to hurry?
- Why is Ruby so fascinated by the paragliders? What do they represent to her? Does anything else in her life make her feel this way?
- Ruby says, "I guess for one summer, just one summer...I did have passion and adventure in my life." To which events do you think she is referring? Do you think that there was any adventure in her life before this summer? Do you think she will continue to have passion and adventure in her life?
- Start your own book group, like the Casserole Queens. Invite all your friends, decide how often you would like to meet, and have someone bring snacks.
- The story behind Lillian and Charles's relationship inspired the Casserole Queens to strike out on their adventure. What stories are hidden in your family tree? Interview your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles about their lives. Write down this oral history and share it with other family members.
- Look into volunteering at a nursing home or retirement community in your neighborhood.
- Is there something in your life that you've been want- ing to learn-like Ruby and paragliding-that you could take up now? See if there's anywhere in your town you could take lessons.
This reading group guide has been provided by SimonandSchuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
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