Not My Ruckus by Chad Musick, 2021
Clare and her brother Frank
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The Plot (from Goodreads):
Folks know 14-year-old Clare isn’t normal, even for a tomboy. She runs too much, talks too little, carries a gun too often, and holds a grudge forever. Only her papa’s job at the bank keeps gossip quiet. It’s unwise to risk the cold anger of the man who knows everyone’s secrets.
Clare feels prepared for everything from fire, to flood, to demon attack. When her neighbor Esther kisses her, though, Clare has no ready script. Maybe she could write one, given time she doesn’t have. At the moment of that first kiss, Esther’s mom is bleeding out from a gunshot wound.
Clare can read the signs everyone else is determined to ignore. A murder was only the beginning. Esther needs protection, whether she wants it or not, and Clare won’t abandon her friend just because things are hard.
Maybe one day she’ll be forgiven for doing what’s needed.
TW: Just about every kind of abuse. My review may be triggering to those who have experienced sexual abuse.
You know the book you’ve just finished was amazing when you keep thinking about it long after it’s over. Clare is one of the most well-written characters I’ve read in a long time, and I can’t stop thinking about her! She is brave, strong, and determined to protect her chosen family. She also is heartbreakingly innocent, in a way that you have to read the book to understand.
I love how Chad depicts the struggle of living with an undiagnosed disability. The plot was interesting, and I was eager to find out what had happened to Esther’s mother.
It was heartbreaking how Clare spoke about her parents’ abuse as if it was totally normal. We can all pick out things from my childhood that I thought were normal until I grew up more, but usually it’s not this dark! I loved the author’s method of show-not-tell writing, and the way he portrayed Clare’s innocence. I would read a line and think, “wait, did I read that right?” and as the book progressed I realized my assumptions were correct. Clare described the noise of a zipper as “the sound of papa” which really gave me chills.
I appreciated the representation in this book. This was my second novel in a row with a neurodiverse MC, which I love to see. Esther is queer, and Clare is questioning. Not My Ruckus takes place in the religious south in the 80s, and important themes of homophobia are discussed.
I also have to mention this cover–so pretty! I should have bought a hyacinth to take this picture with.
Hats off to Chad Musick for an absolutely chilling, beautifully written debut. I’m already looking forward to his next book. Not My Ruckus will be available this week on February 16th. Many thanks to Chad for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.