Reviewed by Jennifer Leisey

Returning home to Alabama after her first year at Michigan State, Ruth is hoping her parents don’t notice how baggy her skinny jeans are, or how carefully she measures out her cereal in the morning. On the days she even eats breakfast.

It shouldn’t be too hard, Ruth thinks, considering her soccer star older brother, David, is also home for the summer. Surely, all of her parents’ attention will be focused on him, leaving Ruth to stick to her plans for the season: lifeguard at the local pool, coach swim team, and not gain weight.

But by the time she’s unpacked and in her old bedroom, the summer is already proving to be different. And when tragedy strikes at the pool, it becomes clear to Ruth that life in her southern home town is not the same as it was when she left for college.

Saving Ruth touches on quite a few hot button topics, including racism, eating disorders, drug use, and mental illness. Narrated by Ruth’s character, the story is told from the perspective of a nineteen-year-old girl, struggling with an obsession for thin that’s veering out of control and taking all scraps of her self confidence with it.

I wish the story had done more to show the dangers of Ruth’s eating disorder, besides a trip to the dentist’s office. The people in Ruth’s life, her parents especially, felt too wishy-washy and unrealistic in how they handled Ruth’s significant weight loss. Comments were made, but always in a round-about way, and her brother David was the only person to actually say the word “anorexic”. I found myself screaming at them to step in, to act like parents, and help their child.

Readers who are offended by drug use should also be aware that marijuana is used and discussed frequently in the book.

Perhaps the issue is due to the novel’s younger target audience, but I thought Saving Ruth had a wonderful storyline . . . with much more potential for real depth. The book mentions multiple serious issues – and almost seems to skim over them until the very end – coming to a completely lackluster solution.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Since graduating from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Professional Writing, Jenn works as a freelance writer, poet, and blogger at south of sheridan. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, and loves baking, crafting, and anything that requires a hot glue gun.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.