Cover Image: The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor

The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor

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Member Reviews

The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor was a delightful story about a young girl struggling to find her place in the world, especially in regard to religion. This is an issue I hear so much about, so I’m incredibly glad there’s a story like this available for young people to read and learn from. Something Ruby especially has trouble dealing with is the fact that she’s “too Jewish” for the Catholic side of her family, but “too Christian” for the Jewish side of her family. 

It was so heartbreaking to watch Ruby try to come to terms with what that meant for her and her faith, but it was also such a strong storyline and was done incredibly well. This can also apply to so many things in regard to identity–not just religion–so the fact that it was addressed so explicitly throughout the story was really powerful. It also means that younger readers who are experiencing this type of divide in their life will be able to feel seen and understood, and maybe come to terms with their struggles. 

That’s why books like these, especially for this age range, are so needed. I’ve read some that haven’t covered difficult topics as well, but this one certainly did. There was a lot for Ruby to overcome and learn, and she did so in an authentic and potent way. 

In addition to identity, family bonds are also a huge part of The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor, with various types of relationships being explored. First, there’s the relationship between Ruby and her Grandma Yvette, who is someone Ruby desperately craves validation and praise from, despite the fact that Grandma Yvette clearly favors her cousin, and is always leaving Ruby out of things because she’s “not Jewish enough.” Even when Ruby comes to terms with the fact that she doesn’t need Grandma Yvette’s approval to be proud and accepting of herself, she still struggles with standing up to her, because deep down, she still craves that validation. Eventually, though, Ruby realizes that nothing she does will ever change Grandma Yvette’s view of her, so her own self-validation will have to be enough. This is something so many people can relate to, and I thought it was handled so well. 

The next type of relationship explored in this book is the strong bonds Ruby shares with her parents, who are both loving and supportive. They truly want the best for Ruby, they always answer her questions when she asks, and any time anyone says something demeaning to her, they stand up for her. It was so lovely to see such a healthy relationship between daughter and parents, since this is something often neglected in MG and YA books. When things became difficult with the Dybbuk situation, Ruby tried to get assistance from her parents, which again is not something often seen. Even though they didn’t believe her, I loved the inclusion of that scene. 

Along with those two types of relationships, different friendships are also investigated. The one I want to focus on right now though is Ruby’s rocky friendship with her cousin, Sarah. These two have done things together for so long, that neither ever stops to question why they’re doing everything as they are, which leads to a lot of pent-up frustration and hurt feelings. Ruby and Sarah didn’t actually have that much in common, but even despite their arguments and misunderstandings, they still loved and appreciated each other. They just needed to approach their friendship differently, but they didn’t know how to since everything had been the same for so long. 

Which is where the inclusion of tradition comes into play. Not only with Sarah, but in other contexts as well. This was another excellent topic that was handled well. The book showed how important traditions can be, but also that they can be harmful if not examined from time to time, or never questioned. It was explained in a simple, matter-of-fact manner that would be easy for younger readers to digest, while still exploring the complexities of the issue. Because, as the book states, traditions can be a really good thing. They can bring people together, and they can make people happy. But when one never question why a specific tradition is done, it can become harmful, or warped into something unrecognizable over time.  

I was just so impressed with how all of the topics were explored. The book is clearly being used to educate young people on certain ideas, however, none of it ever felt forced or unnecessary for the story. Everything flowed well and made sense for Ruby’s journey. It was excellent! 

The only thing that bothered me about this book was Ruby’s characterization in the beginning. She could be really selfish, but it was all part of her growth and story arc. She went through a long journey throughout the book, and she experienced a lot of change, so it makes sense that this is where she started. It was genuine, too. I’m sure I was insufferable at that age as well. So, I do completely understand why it was necessary and where she was coming from, it just got in my nerves from time to time.

Even so, I ended up loving this. Because even though Ruby was incredibly self-centered at the start, her development was done so well. It was never forced and always felt realistic.

The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor is a wonderful story that can be read in one or two sittings. It’s a sweet book, but will also really make you think about things. I’m so glad I got to read this one!
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I received an arc thanks to NetGalley.

I so badly wanted to like this book, but I don't think there is anything in particular wrong with it, it just isn't for me. Like many of the other reviews state, there are great elements to this book. It just wasn't great for me. I LOVE that there is a magical realism book featuring Jewish main characters. I know many of my middle grade students will enjoy this book more than I did. Easy purchase decision for our library.
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This book encapsulates something that I think is an experience that should be addressed more in middle-grade books. That in-between state of wanting to maintain tradition, and wanting to break it to be yourself. The concept of a family not loving you the same as the family that's more like them, or not being enough for that family, is also a really specific feeling that I don't think I've ever seen in a book. While not Jewish, I know the feeling of being less than your cousins for a particular grandmother, and how jarring that is growing up. Additionally, as someone who isn't Jewish, this book educated me a lot on it both from a religious and cultural standpoint. There are some traditions I'd never heard of, that were explained in a way that made sense but didn't feel too "tell not show". The emotional pull mixed in with the sense of stress that Ruby is experiencing to try and save Sarah really rounded this book out and made it quick-paced and enjoyable.
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I want to first say thank you to MacMillan and Netgalley for a free copy in exchange for my honest review.

This book proves why middle grade is for everyone. The story was truly impactful and held a lot of truth for a lot of kids that grow up in both multicultural and multi religious homes. 

 The hard hitting topic of what it's like to feel on the edge of two different families and never feeling like you quite fit in was the main topic throughout the story. I love the lesson learned in the family especially the two cousins and the girl boss attitude to fight against traditional values.

Because the story is geared towards younger audiences I can give such a quick solution for the ending. I would like to point out that thing I did like was that their were consequences given in he end and good reasoning among the kids.
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This was a really fun read! 

I really enjoyed how the story built throughout the novel. It took time for Ruby to sort out what was going on around her, especially dealing with adult conflicts, and that felt refreshingly realistic. 
I did not grow up in a household that was mixed race, religion, or culture, but from what I understand, Ruby's struggles trying to fit in with and please both sides of her family and find her place in the rest of the world were portrayed rather well. I did relate to her struggling to meet adult expectations before she understood the full weight behind those expectations, and trying to be perfect when perfect still wouldn't be good enough. I think many readers can relate to Ruby even if they don't have identical challenges.

I also appreciated that it took multiple positive adult role models cheering on for Ruby to help her learn to love herself the way she is. Her parents and Rabbi Ellen helped counteract the negative pressure from her grandparents. And I really how Ruby's relationships with Aubrey and Sarah changed and grew throughout the novel, reflecting how many if not all of us have to process what friendship means as we transition from the simple friendships of childhood to more complex ones as teenagers. 

Conflicts aside, I loved the Jewish representation in this book. I don't know much about Jewish culture or the religion myself, but I love learning about other cultures and religions, so it was really fun learning what being Jewish looks like for Ruby in her day to day life. I also appreciated a look into how the concept of what it means to be a woman in Judaism is changing in the modern day. 

The only complaint I have is that the conflicts didn't seem completely resolved by the end of the novel. Ruby and Sarah finally faced their grandma down, but the confrontation felt a little underwhelming after experiencing how much pressure the two of them had been under their whole lives, and the tense situations with both sides of Ruby's family were left unsolved. However, these kinds of family quarrels can go entire lifetimes without being resolved, and Ruby is only twelve and is only beginning to understand how complex family relationships can be, so I understand why the author ended the story where she did. 

Overall, a fun read, and I look forward to seeing what else the author has written!
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This book is written for middle school kids and up. It's about a 12 year old girl named Ruby who is half Jewish on her father's side and half Christian on her Mom's side. Despite being a patrlinear Jew, she is raised in the Jewish faith. She's not Jewish enough for her Jewish grandmother, Yvette, and she's too Jewish for her Mom's parents. Her cousin Sarah, who is also 12, is a full blooded Jew and more favored by Grandma Yvette. Sarah does everything right and Ruby never feels good enough.
Grandma has a chest that they've been told not to open because a Dyybuk is in it. A Dyybuk is a ghost that can take over your body. One day Ruby trips over the box and it opens a little. Sarah is in the room. Shortly after, Sarah changes her personality and starts getting in trouble.  Is it the Dybbuk? How is Ruby going to fix this one?
Good character development in this book and the main character seems authentic and has a sense of humor. They talk about developing friendships, joining clubs, feeling joy for being appreciated by Grandma, and finding your voice and identity. The Dybbuk is an interesting problem to solve. Good build up and satisfying conclusion
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This book was a really fun read. I appreciate the author's perspective and approach on how to deal with never being quite enough for those around you. I loved how we got lore about the Dybbuk and how we saw the shift in Sarah, and I appreciated how complete the characters felt; the parents, grandma, and the girls, and our Rabbi were all very real and very human, flaws and all. The story progressed at a good pace, and the only thing I think happened too quickly was the ending. With all the build-up we got until the endpoint, I really expected a greater exorcism. I'm not too disappointed, but I do hunger for a little more drama and flair, since our little dybbuk has proved to have a dramatic side. I could really see children enjoying this story and this could be a very good book club book, since we have a lot we can discuss at the end, especially theorizing the truth or fiction of the dybbuk.

Thank you Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for the ARC.
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Panitch uses magical realism, family conflict, and growing up to explore knowing who you are, friendship, and what it means to be Jewish in this coming of age story. She does it with humor and grace, skillfully capturing Ruby’s personality with a combination of raw emotion and dissection jokes ☺️ 
I also love how she introduces Jewish traditions to those who may be unfamiliar, from Shabbat to Hebrew school to Bat Mitzvahs. Tweens and teens of all cultural identities will find something to enjoy here!
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HONESTLY, one of my most favorite middle grade books. It strongly explores how adults don't always handle things the correct way and how it could affect their children and how they process it. I was caught off unexpectedly by the mythology aspect of the book and how STRONG Ruby is. This is a great coming of age book that teaches kids to be individuals and stand up for each other. I hope it can open good conversations between children and their parents about their identity.
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Ruby Taylor has begun to grow apart from her best friend and cousin Sarah who is annoyingly perfect. Ruby wants to make new friends that she has more in common with and she wishes her Grandma Ivette would favor her as much as she favors perfect Sarah. Things are complicated in Ruby’s life, as a Jew with a Christian mother some people don’t consider her traditionally Jewish or even Jewish at all. With everyone telling her who she is or isn’t Ruby begins to question exactly where she fits into her world.

The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor is a fantastic exploration into the sometimes tense world of family and religion, and how expectations can stifle individuals and relationships. Amanda Panitch does a great job getting into the head of a sharp 12 year old girl beginning to flex her individuality, Ruby’s delightfully morbid interest in science was a particularly fun detail in her personality. Ruby’s character development was a lot of fun to follow, the reader can certainly pick up on the things Ruby isn’t being entirely fair about and it was great to read along as Ruby figured things out for herself. The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor deftly handles difficult subjects like antisemitism and adults behaving poorly with the understanding that problematic behavior doesn’t always have a solution and people sometimes won’t change, sometimes the only thing in one’s power is to look inward, luckily Ruby has loving parents and a friend to help her when she needs it.

The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor is a great middle grade book that would work well in classrooms and fit into discussions about family, friendship, religion, acceptance, and multicultural studies. I will definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary fiction with strong character driven stories. I’m planning to read Amanda Panitch’s other  books and will look out for her work in the future.

I have posted this review to my Goodreads account.
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I greatly enjoyed this book, and I heavily recommend it as a middle grade read. I appreciated that the story portrayed a Jewish main character as I haven't read many middle grade or juvenile fiction that do so. I think that people can relate to this book regardless of faith. It depicts struggles within a family and relationships. I liked the incorporation of the dybbuk, and I enjoyed the characters. I highly recommend this book for my library, and I'll be recommending it to teachers that I know for their classrooms libraries.
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This is an interesting book about a girl who is struggling to figure out who she is and where she fits into her family. Her mom is Christian and her dad is Jewish but she is being raised in the Jewish faith; however, her grandparents on both sides treat her like she isn't Jewish enough or too Jewish to fit into their families. She is also struggling with her cousin who she thinks her grandmother love more than her. She ends up in an adventure that helps her to rebuild a relationship with her cousin and figure out that she is enough exactly how she is.
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In The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor Ruby is a Jewish girl who is envious of her well-liked, studious cousin Sarah, particularly because Sarah has the approval of their Grandma Yvette. One day during an argument with Sarah in their Grandma's basement Ruby trips over an antique box, releasing a dybbuk, a malicious spirit from Jewish mythology that possesses Sarah. When Sarah begins acting out and causing trouble Ruby must find a way to remove the dybbuk, which can only be done by a pious Jew, but is worried she won't be able to. Though the main story is the supernatural element, much of the book focuses on Ruby's struggles with her identity. Because she has a Catholic mother Ruby is often made to feel she is neither Jewish enough nor Christian enough but by the end she has come to understand herself better. Ruby is a likable and charismatic protagonist that middle grade readers will identify with; even when she makes mistakes she is still relatable.  I think this book has the potential to be a new favorite for girls in 5th-7th grade, but it's well-written enough to be enjoyed by everyone else.
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