Between Wild and Ruin is the first book in a new a paranormal coming-of-age romance trilogy filled with Native American folklore and magic. It was a light, fast-paced and engaging read with an extra layer of grief and guilt that together with the historical lore made it so much more than the ordinary YA fantasy. Some parts were a bit over the top though, or not to my liking, to make it as gripping as it could have been. But it was overall a beautifully written and interesting read.
The story follows seventeen-year-old Ruby Brooks as she moves to small-town La Luna, New Mexico, with her aunt after the tragic death of her mother. Even though Ruby just wants to focus on getting her life back on track, she instantly becomes the center of attention of the tiny, gossipy town, and finds herself drawn not only to two of the local boys, but to the ancient ruin in the forest as well.
Somehow the ruin calls for Ruby and makes her zealously go hiking into the forests despite the warnings she keeps getting to avoid it. One day at the ruin, she encounters the mysterious, incredibly beautiful Leo, who no one in town seems to know about. Intrigued and fascinated by Leo, she can’t stop thinking about him, at the same time as she’s struggling with her feelings for the handsome sheriff’s deputy Angel, and the bitter and lonely Ezra, whose face has been destroyed in an accident. But soon Ruby will find out that surfaces are deceiving and that there are so many more layers to this story than what could ever have been imagined from the start.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of the New Mexico landscape and the mix of historical setting, folklore, magic and multicultural characters. I also really appreciated the questions about what makes life worth living and what truly makes a person beautiful. I really rooted for Ezra from the start, and how strong he was despite having lost his former beauty and being an outcast despised by the whole town. I also really liked his humor and his and Ruby’s bantering. The way Ruby behaved towards Ezra was one of my absolute favorite parts of this story. In a way, this book was a very well executed Beauty and the Beast story, truly showing how beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
But there were some parts that were a bit over the top. Especially the love quadrangle and how Ruby behaved towards Angel, keeping him as some kind of backup by playing the friends card. I also had problems with the way she said one thing and then did the complete opposite, and how she treated her friends. She did come across as a little too selfish and immature at times to make me fully root for her. But I liked her independence and strong will.
Some parts of the story were also a bit too unrealistic to fully buy into. And I don’t mean the premise that there are shapeshifters, old lineage curses, inter-dimensional worlds and other paranormal aspects, I’m all for that! I mean things like how Ruby immediately was the love interest for almost all boys in town at once, how she kept going to the ruin even though everyone warned her about it and how everyone could accept her stories so easily. The part that I had most problems with was Leo. I didn’t like or trust him at all and really didn’t ship his and Ruby’s attraction to each other.
But overall, this was an engaging and suspenseful story with a beautiful setting and atmosphere, and a unique mix of Beauty and the Beast and Native American lore. So, 3.5 stars rounding up to 4 for the way this book kept me entertained the whole way through.
Thank you BookSirens for the free review copy. All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
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Jennifer G. Edelson
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