Honey, Baby, Sweetheart: Reviews
Tender and poetic, Caletti’s tale of the multifaceted effects of the many kinds of love tells the story of Ruby, who, in an effort to break out of her quiet-girl persona, begins dating an exciting but amoral rich boy. To bring Ruby back into the fold, her divorced librarian mother gets her involved in a reading group for the aged. One of the members of the book club, an elderly woman recently debilitated by a stroke, turns out to be the real-life love of an author whose book they are studying. In the least inspired part of the tale, the crowd decides to kidnap the incapacitated lady from her controlling daughters and bring the lovers together. Caletti has the gift of voice and tells her story with humor, insight, and compassion. Listen to Ruby musing on the delicate balance of kindness and truth between mother and daughter. “We cared too much for each other to have between us the recklessness of complete honesty.” Lovely. (Fiction. 12+)
Ultimately rewarding, this novel about a high school girl who steps out of her role as “The Quiet Girl” for a summer of “passion and adventure… the stuff of the books at the Nine Mile Library where my mother works,” shares both the strengths and pitfalls of Caletti’s The Queen of Everything. When Ruby gets involved with handsome, motorcycle-riding and rich Travis, she likes that he sees her as fearless. But he is also dangerous, and spellbound Ruby gradually gets sucked into first reckless and then criminal acts. In a concerted effort to help Ruby break away from Travis, her librarian mother, who has just endured a betrayal of her own, begins overseeing Ruby’s schedule and takes her to the book club she facilitates for feisty senior citizens, the Casserole Queens—which leads to a whole other story line involving one of their members, a stroke victim who may or may not have been the lover of a famous author. There is a lot of plot, often requiring the audience’s leaps of faith over not especially believable moments, and Caletti’s prose, laden with strikingly apt comparisons, can make this book feel dense. Even so, so much here is uncommonly vivid, especially the exchanges among Ruby, her mother and her younger brother. Readers who stay with it will find thoughtful and authentically inspiring messages about trusting in themselves enough to insist on a love that means more than being someone’s “honey, baby, sweetheart.” Ages 12-up. (May)
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School Library Journal (starred review):
Gr 9 Up-During the summer of her junior year, shy, quiet Ruby McQueen falls in love with the rich boy down the block. After their first motorcycle ride, Travis gives her a beautiful gold chain, and she wears it everywhere. Only later, while on a date with him, does she learn where he gets his gifts-he breaks into houses and steals jewelry. Ruby struggles with her conflicted feelings for him. Her parents are separated and hardly stellar examples when it comes to relationships. By spending time with the Casserole Queens (her librarian mother’s senior-citizen book group) and listening to their life stories, the teen and her mother finally discover the role models that they’ve been lacking. Readers will immediately fall for Ruby with her humor and her wry way of looking at the world. Their hearts will break as she makes bad decision after bad decision, and they’ll cheer as she comes to some important realizations, with the help of the Casserole Queens. Young adults will see themselves in Ruby and, like her, have some laughs along the road to wisdom. A story full of heart, fun, and energy.
– Lynn Evarts, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, WI
© Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
“A wise, witty, and hilarious story that looks at coming-of-age, and so much more. This multigenerational love story is extremely well-written and should appeal both to teenagers and adults. I couldn’t stop nodding and laughing in thorough understanding!”
– Morgan Spring, Full Circle Bookstore, Oklahoma City, OK
“Honey, Baby, Sweetheart” is a funny and poignant look at first love and being a teenager. Quiet Ruby McQueen meets bad-boy rich kid Travis Becker and her life spins rapidly out of control. Trying to help her get over a broken heart and to keep her occupied, her mother enrolls her in her weekly book group for senior citizens, a great group of people who are very sympathetic to the trouble Ruby is in: one of their group is the subject of the tragic love story they are reading. This is a wonderful story about love and loss and living through it.
– Rene’ Kirkpatrick, buyer, All for Kids Books & Music
Sixteen-year-old Ruby McQueen thinks her dreams have come true when handsome, wealthy and mysterious biker Travis Becker starts paying attention to her and giving her mind-blowing kisses. At the same time, her sometimes-father pays a visit and Ruby barely recognizes her usually competent librarian mother as she caters to his whims. Ruby doesn’t understand why people love where it doesn’t make sense, until it happens to her. While she sorts out these feelings, she becomes involved in helping a senior book club member find her long lost love. HONEY, BABY, SWEETHEART is about finding yourself and compassion for others.
Ruby and her brother’s pain at seeing their mother hurt over and over again in the same way by their father is also a nice parallel to the mistakes Ruby makes with Travis. When Travis turns out to be someone other than Prince Charming, she finds that it’s not so easy to make logical judgments and walk away, even when it would be the right thing to do. Ruby’s mother reminds her that she is only human herself, and at least they can support each other.
Everyone has made dating mistakes, and readers will easily relate to Ruby. Deb Caletti, author of THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING, once again comes through with a believable teen narrator. While the pace is slow at times and readers will be yelling at Ruby not to make some of the choices she does, the subplot involving the book club and Ruby’s relationship with her mother makes this book unique and worthwhile.
– Amy Alessio
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
It’s a summer of change for sixteen-year-old Ruby McQueen, who sheds her quiet reputation when she takes up with Travis Becker, daredevil motorcycle-riding son of the local rich family. Travis’ charms lead ruby to become a reckless aider and abettor (“I was fearless, because that’s what he wanted me to be”), until finally she follows him into a criminal act that betrays an old friend. Her mother attempts to wrest her free of Travis’ grip by getting her involved with the Casserole Queens, a group of senior citizens who meet weekly for book discussion, but it turns out that high drama lies there as well. One of its members, now rendered largely speechless by a stroke, turns out to be the long-ago sweetheart of the author whose autobiography they’re reading, and the motley band embark on a wild plan: to spirit Lillian away from her nursing home and down the coast to her former love, who’s waiting to be reunited with her. As she did in The Queen of Everything (BCCB 1/03), Caletti explores the conflicting, complicated impulses of the human heart with polish and penetration. Her portrait of Ruby, aware of her own weakness even as she succumbs to it and hurts those she loves most, is delicate and authentic, conveying a sensitive understanding of character and of our ability to surprise ourselves in ways good as well as bad. Despite the thematic connections, there’s rather a split between the infatuated-with-Travis plot and the road-trip story, but both adventures are wisely and richly drawn (and there’s plenty of humor in the journey). This is a stylish and perceptive account of a young woman’s developing perceptions of human frailty and human strength.
Gr. 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Ruby McQueen is known as “that quiet girl” at school, so she is intoxicated when she meets gorgeous rich-kid Travis Becker, with whom she feels tough and “fearless.” Travis involves her in increasingly dangerous stunts until Ruby finally breaks away, but her mother, Ann, knows the difficulty of choosing self-protection over a thrilling love: she has struggled for years to get over Ruby’s absent, philandering father. To distract herself and her daughter, Ann brings Ruby to her book club with “The Casserole Queens,” a group of wisecracking seniors who embroil Ann and Ruby in a plan to reunite a friend with a lost love. Ruby’s romance with Travis, particularly the initial meeting, isn’t handled with the same depth as the Casserole Queens’ plot, which reads almost like a second novel. But as in her debut, The Queen of Everything (2002), Caletti writes a compelling, multigenerational story about teens and parents who simultaneously weather heartbreak and find new self-worth, enriching the telling with the Northwest setting, folksy wisdom, and Ruby’s strong, sure voice.
– Gillian Engberg
© Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved
Sometimes we are all susceptible to the honey, baby, sweetheart lure—weak even though part of us knows a particular romance is dangerous. Ruby is the narrator, and she starts by telling us about seeing the motorcycle belonging to a handsome rich boy named Travis, and how this changes the summer after her junior year in high school. She can’t resist Travis and the thrill of riding fast sitting behind him racing through the dark. So she sneaks out, she lies; then Travis reveals the truth about himself: he is a risk-taker to the extreme, breaking into people’s houses, stealing. Ruby knows he is bad, and she thinks what he is doing is wrong—but it’s almost impossible to resist him and the excitement of loving him. Two other love stories are happening concurrently. Ruby’s mother, a wonderful character—she’s a librarian, after all—finds it almost impossible to resist her ex-husband, the father of Ruby and Ruby’s brother. Ruby has seen her mother accept her father back, time and time again, being used and discarded. When Ruby’s mother discovers Ruby’s difficulties getting rid of Travis, the two form a game plan to get over these men. Part of the plan is to keep busy, and one of the ways to keep busy is to be involved in a book discussion group of elderly people who meet regularly. This may seem boring on the face of it—but these folks are outrageous in many ways and certainly not boring. One of the members, Lillian, who has had a stroke, has been separated from her soul mate, a famous writer she knew when they were young. When he finds out Lillian is sick, he urges them to bring Lillian to him in California where he will take care of her. So, Ruby, Ruby’s mother, and the group kidnap Lillian from the nursing home and manage to get her safely to her lover in California—several days away by car—partly to prove to themselves there is such a thing as love. Caletti fills the pages with wonderful images, sharp dialogue, and memorable characters. This is longer and more involved than most YA novels, but many YAs will enjoy every bit of it. Caletti is also the author of The Queen of Everything.
KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Simon & Schuster, 308p., Ages 12 to 18.
– Claire Rosser
Romantic Times Book Club Magazine:
In Caletti’s second novel, shy, reserved Ruby McQueen goes a little wild, comes to her senses, then learns who she really is.
At 16, Ruby is a one-friend-only girl whose life lacks punch, until she meets Travis Becker, a totally sexy and slightly dangerous boy. Soon, Ruby finds herself doing things she’d never have considered, and she’s not too proud of herself. Meanwhile, her mother is trying to deal with her own relationship demons and drags Ruby with her to the local senior book club. Though some teens may be turned off by the senior theme, hopefully they’ll stick around to see the lives these extraordinary, funny, rich people lead.
Caletti is a top-notch writer whose book can just as easily be enjoyed by adults as teens. Her smart writing packs keen observations on love, boys and life in general. Plus, the story is really entertaining. (May, 320 pp., $15.95)
– Taylor Morris
Buzzworthy: Caletti’s second book an amazing love story
Last Updated: June 17, 2004, 07:40:18 AM PDT
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Bookworm’s Favorites: “Honey, Baby, Sweetheart” by Deb Caletti
Synopsis: Ruby McQueen is a self-proclaimed “Quiet Girl.” Her mother, Ann, a self-respecting librarian, turns to mush whenever her absentee father comes around, and Ruby and her brother, Chip Jr., are always left to pick up the pieces of their mother’s broken heart after he leaves.
Ruby swears she’ll never let a man get to her the way her father got to her mother, but then she meets Travis Becker. Travis doesn’t know Ruby, doesn’t know she’s a quiet, shy girl, and Ruby loves the fact that she can be anyone she wants with him.
Caletti connects three love stories: the story of Ruby’s mother and father, the story of Ruby and Travis, and yet another story of an 80-year-old woman Ruby’s mother is trying to reunite with her lost love. It takes a road trip to reunite the two long-lost lovers to make Ruby realize that she must look inside herself to find true love.
Opinion: Deb Caletti’s second book, “Honey, Baby, Sweetheart,” is an amazing love story. Ruby is a likeable heroine that any teenage girl will relate to, because what girl hasn’t tried to be someone they’re not to impress a boy she likes? Ruby, like any teen, fights her mother and falls in love with the wrong guy.
– Jennifer Fraioli
“Honey, Baby, Sweetheart” more than a morality tale
In Deb Caletti’s young adult novel “Honey, Baby, Sweetheart,” her main character, Ruby, defies expectations generally given to teenage girls in novels and movies aimed at them by not obsessing over dating and instead focusing on love.
Like many “quiet kid” protagonists, Ruby breaks out of her shell one summer by doing something daring — dating the rich, thieving, handsome, manipulative boy next door. At first, Ruby’s relationship with Travis seems inexplicable beyond his providing a way for her to be a little wild and do things she normally never would. As the story progresses, however, Caletti’s (and Ruby’s) focus drifts off Travis, instead using Ruby’s newfound sense of adventure to more productive means.
This is refreshing because, while Ruby does screw up big-time, Caletti doesn’t dwell on Ruby’s tumble into a rougher world. Ruby is a sweet, reasonable girl, and she is too strong to let herself slip into total destruction.
Ruby’s struggle with Travis parallels her mother Ann’s struggle with Ruby’s father, Chip. Chip took off years before the book’s action to be a country singer at an amusement park, but divorce and bitterness didn’t exactly follow. Instead, he stops by once in a while, just enough to keep Ann in love and hopelessly lonely.
After Travis and Chip drive Ruby and Ann to their breaking points, the mother-daughter duo (whose relationship rarely falters in this book, probably thanks to their similar problems) takes a wild road trip — with a bunch of elderly women.
“The Casserole Queens,” as they are known, are a book club for retired women that Ann (a librarian) facilitates. To keep Ruby’s mind off Travis, Ann forces her to come along.
Each of the “Queens” is endearingly kooky if slightly under-characterized. Mrs. Wong is convinced that her mild-mannered husband is cheating on her, and Harold, the only male member of the club, is allowed in because he’s a great cook. But the most complex member of the Queens is newcomer Lillian.
Lillian, who is rendered speechless and largely helpless by a stroke, has a strange attachment to books written by a famous author the book club is studying.
The mystery is solved far too quickly — really, it’s not enough of a mystery to bother concealing. Lillian and this author had a love affair long ago, and Ruby, Ann and the Queens take it upon themselves to reunite them.
This adventure, not the unfortunate love dramas, is the heart of Caletti’s story.
Ruby is amazingly insightful through the whole book, and her most profound comments pop up during the trip. Besides her ability to reflect on the good that came out of her summer of conflict, Ruby also uses striking metaphors and anecdotes to pinpoint exactly how she is feeling or what she is seeing and allow the reader to understand perfectly.
“Honey, Baby, Sweetheart” is good for teenage girls to read because of the gentle lessons it imparts, but the story itself is far deeper than a morality tale, and can be enjoyed by all readers.
– Tara Roberts