I received a handsome hardback copy of Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier (translated by Anthea Bell) from the German Book Office in New York City. It's always a very happy occasion to get a book in the mail.
Gwen Shepherd has never felt special compared to her cousin Charlotte, who is being specially groomed and inducted into a secret society that will help her manage her time travel gene. But it turns out that the gene landed on Gwen, who is completely unprepared, never having paid much attention in history class. Now Gwen is caught in the middle of esoteric lore and a feud she had no idea was taking place. She can't figure it all out during the course of this book, so stay tuned for the next installments.
Gwen's naivete is refreshing, but I find it bizarre that she isn't more interested in history (her friend has to Google everything for her), because not only is she a time traveler, but she can also see and speak with ghosts. In this book at least, her attitude seems to open up only when presented with the interesting fashions, so she seems almost as superficial as her travel partner thinks she is.
The most frustrating thing about the plot, which made it seem slow for me, was the lack of communication between Gwen and the adults in her life, inside the secret society and out. She seems to feel she isn't important to them, even when she realizes that they've been wasting their attention on Charlotte all this time. I was shouting at her through the page when she couldn't find a moment to tell her mother that she was in imminent danger of disappearing. Come on, girl! This is more important than any other concern your mother might have! Then, the adults and her similar-aged travel companion (and love interest) who are members of the secret society, continue to be secretive. It's supposed to add to the mystery, but all the hush-hush made me feel that there actually wasn't a lot happening.
There are a few very exciting scenes and I especially enjoyed scenes in which Gwen speaks with ghosts. This books is really well translated, transmitting a childlike relish to the story that's a thrill to read. I think I would like Ruby Red even better if it hadn't stopped where it did, but continued with whatever adventures and mysteries are to come in the next books, Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green. This first book wasn't very long, and will be much more satisfying when the reader can enjoy the entire trilogy all at once.