Feb 16, 2009

Ruby: I may or may not have picked this book up because of the cover.

by Francesca Lia Block and Carmen Staton
Published: 2007

I realize I'm stretching here, but why not?

From the beloved author of Necklace of Kisses comes a modern-day fairy tale of a willful and intuitive heroine and a world of shocking realism and transcendent magic.

Francesca Lia Block, this time with co-writer Carmen Staton, introduces readers to Ruby, a Midwestern girl named for the jewel that is believed to ward off evil spirits. Ruby's special gift is a sixth sense that makes her at one with nature and gives her the ability to know her own destiny.

After growing up in an abusive family, Ruby escapes to Los Angeles and learns of her soulmate -- Orion -- a British actor. She travels to England, where she works at a potions and herbs shop, and through a series of coincidental circumstances, ends up nursing Orion back to health without confessing that she has been on a quest to find him all along. But just when she thinks her dream is becoming a reality, Ruby is stopped in her tracks by the violent demons of her past. Only by facing the darkness together can she and Orion finally fulfill their destiny.

As with Necklace of Kisses, Block, here with Staton, breaks the mold. In Ruby, readers will find a story about the power of our minds to overcome the past and ultimately change the course of our lives.

This is a pretty nifty, slightly insane book. It is, essentially, this: Ruby comes from an abusive background, sees Troy on DVD, develops an obsession with Orlando Bloom, travels to England to surreptitiously gain the trust of his family, and somehow cause him to fall in love with her as she battles the demons of her past. All with Francesca Lia Block's edgy fairy tale qualities spun throughout.

No, really.

Only it's not ever that easy. Although, I really do think Orion is Orlando Bloom, and I will now refer to him as such. Ruby goes to England and seeks out Orlando not because she's obsessed with him in a creepy fangirl way, but because she just happens to know a few things and why not her. I don't know whether to be amused by the simplicity of this idea, or take it up as my new life motto. Why not me? Indeed. Why not. Due to fiction's cute little conveniences, Ruby gets a job at the magic shop that Orlando's mother owns, and Ruby starts coming over to Orlando's parents' house for dinner, only Orlando is never there. Cruel fates. But fiction has to go be convenient again and reveal that Orlando has been there all the time, he's just in seclusion because he fell off of his horse and apparently broke his back in ways backs have never been broken. He's more or less paralyzed, but because the writing style isn't exactly explicit you're left to assume that.

Ruby has some ideas on how to fix this, so she magics him into wellness (and full body function) using paste and water. Magic paste and water! Orlando is all patched up and ready to go again. He takes a liking to Ruby, as we all knew he would, and eventually they decide to go riding together because he really wants to get back on his horse, Day. Simple name. I'm tempted to like it, if Day's brother didn't happen to be Night. Seriously, that wasn't so hot. Neither is the angry temper Night casually sheds upon meeting Ruby (only this is acceptable because Ruby's sixth sense is her connection with animals and so forth, and in this world it's actually possible). Nor is it that great when Ruby randomly says, "I'll take a Western saddle please" like she's ordering ice cream. And she is in England. I'm not sure how likely it is to just walk into a stable in England and say, "Western saddle here!" without having someone look at you like you're an asshole. Anyway, Ruby rides with Orlando Bloom through the forest and he shows her where he fell and why he fell (that guy with the leaves on his face, and that giant stag...totally would have freaked a horse out). Eventually they return to the stable and Orlando Bloom informs her that he has a new movie, etc. They have sex, Ruby agonizes over the fact that she's basically built all of this on a lie, so she writes a book about her life (this stunned me a little, because she kept saying she'd use this book as a cover for why she's really there, and I had no idea she was actually writing it in the end) and what led her to England and sends it to Orlando just as she leaves to go back to the States because her father died.

I can't even get into her father. That was a messed up situation that you know is horribly messed up all the way to the point where you're wincing and thinking "that's messed up" and Ruby is justified when she admits being scared out of her mind at the possibility that this guy would come back to haunt her (because in this world, ghosts are possible). Orlando comes back to help her through this experience, and her dad never comes back from the dead. Ruby is successfully over the trauma, and Orlando still loves her despite all that weirdness. Although I guess Orlando is used to it, what with his mom sort of being a witch or something.

The strength of the story isn't Orlando, or Ruby's trip to England to find Orlando, but the backstory with her family. It's...just really messed up. You want her to find the ability to move on and become a new person and shed all of that crap. It's also beautifully told in a minimal sort of way. A little too short, and you sort of don't care about Orlando given that he's hardly there and not nearly as important as the rest of the story. I liked it, despite some shortcomings.

And yes, it's so obviously Orlando Bloom.

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