School Library Journal
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Gr 9 Up-In 1941, Ruby Jacinski, 15, quits school and works at a meatpacking plant to support her ailing mother and her sister. Her life changes dramatically when Paulie, a handsome young man with a terrible reputation, takes an interest in her and encourages her to pursue a job at the Starlight Dance Academy. There, she can earn a lot of money, get her family out of debt, and live a more exciting life by dancing with lonely men. For someone who loves to dance, the job is a dream come true, but Ruby soon learns that it comes with a price. She lies to her mother and tries to avoid the constant hustle and manipulation from both the customers and her coworkers. As she continues to turn to Paulie for protection and advice, she gets caught up in the seedier side of Chicago's poor Back of the Yards district. This is a unique look at U.S. social history. Ruby is tough, strong, and determined, but maintains the innocent and idealistic dreams of adolescence, thus endearing her to readers. The grittier side of Chicago nightlife and the harsh pressures on wartime youth to mature quickly are well delineated. This intriguing story is well paced and well researched.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Inspired by the experiences of her great-aunt, Fletcher (Tallulah Falls) imagines two years in the life of a scrappy girl from a working-class community in Chicago during WWII. Just 15 and saddled with the responsibility of supporting her ailing mother and younger sister, Ruby Jacinski quits school to work in a meatpacking factory but is soon dazzled by the prospect of earning big money as a taxi dancer (professional dance partner)--an idea she picks up from her neighborhood crush, mobster wannabe Paulie. Fletcher sustains the narrative with the ongoing tension between Ruby's buttoned-up family persona and her desire for a real romance, the glamour of dressing up and dancing to jazz, and baiting "fish" (customers) for dinner dates and money. Ruby's ability to skate away from an entanglement with an older, very crass client, a disillusioning relationship with Paulie and a brush with the mob can strain credibility; however, the depiction of Chicago nightlife in the '40s and Ruby's deft observations ("the look on his face, like the music itself had put on a dress and come up to him and said hello") add depth and complexity. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
When Ruby replaces her ailing mother in the tough, meatpacking Yards of 1940s Chicago, the feisty teen can't stand the job's grimness and poverty wages: I spent eight hours a day stuffing hogs' feet in jars, and we still ate beans. When handsome bad-boy Paulie urges her to try the Starlight Dance Academy, and get paid to dance with men who show up each night, she can't resist this far more lucrative prospect. Although her mom believes Ruby has changed jobs to become a nightshift telephone operator, Ruby sashays into the wee hours as a dance-hall girl looking for glamour and adventure. Readers will be riveted by Ruby's journey as she leaves one desperate existence for another and finds herself drawn deeper into a world that is hard-edged and even dangerous especially when she begins to let Paulie lead her down a dubious path. Blatant racism, crime, and the swing-era music scene permeate the backdrop of Fletcher's absorbing wartime novel, which will have readers rooting for its spirited, soul-searching heroine.--O'Malley, Anne Copyright 2008 Booklist