Christina Li’s Ruby Lost and Found is a thought-provoking middle grade novel that focuses on family, friends, and healing.
Ruby has felt lost since her Ye-Ye passed away. She and her grandfather were incredibly close, and she doesn’t understand how everyone else has moved on so quickly. With one of her best friends moving away and the other unable to handle Ruby’s grief, Ruby feels more alone than ever. Blaming herself for Ye-Ye’s death, Ruby has grown distant from her Nai-Nai. Until she gets caught sneaking out of school at lunch and ends up having to spend the summer with Nai-Nai babysitting her. At 13, Ruby does not want or need a babysitter.
But maybe this summer with Nai-Nai is just what Ruby needs to heal.
Li crafts such realistic characters that I found myself daydreaming of going to San Francisco and bumping into Ruby on the street. San Francisco’s Chinatown is practically a character unto itself, with the sights, smells, and especially the tastes transcending the page.
Grief is no small thing, especially when one feels at fault. Li masterfully shows not only how Ruby’s guilt is misplaced, but also emphasizes the importance of having conversations around loss. When Ruby and her Nai-Nai finally talk about Ye-Ye’s death, it brings about healing for both of them.
Struggles with friends, parents, siblings, and community are all central elements to Ruby’s story, yet none feel preachy or like the reader is being taught a lesson. Instead, this book is full of hope, of learning to trust your instincts, and to believe in yourself and your community.
Li masterfully weaves several subplots into the primary plot, which keeps the story moving while providing time and space for Ruby’s reflection.
Ruby Lost and Found is available now. You can purchase it from Bookshop.org here.
Thank you to author Christina Li, NetGalley, and HarperCollins Children’s Books for an advanced e-arc such that I could share my honest opinion.