A Touch of Ruckus

Have you ever felt like you would do whatever was necessary to make life easier for those you love? I have often felt that way, setting aside my own wants to ensure others’ happiness. From acquiescing to another’s pizza request to pretending to be ok when you’re not, each of these independent moments can build upon one another to cause anxiety and distress in even the most balanced personality.

A Touch of Ruckus tells the story of twelve year-old Tennessee (Tennie) Lancaster, a middle child who makes sure to fade into the background to avoid becoming another problem for her heavily burdened family. In her desire to keep her family happy, Tennie shoves her own weighty secrets as deep as possible, losing touch with her truth in the process. A new friend named Fox has a secret they are not afraid to share, one which helps bring Tennie’s confession to the surface. Combating ghosts of various types, Tennie and Fox invite the truth to appear as they work to bring peace to everyone involved. Please see my full review here.

I loved the writing in this book from the first page, where vivid descriptions placed me squarely in the small town of Howler’s Hollow. Dynamic personalities are found throughout the book, their unique natures coming alive in the dialect-laden text. Idioms and phrases particular to the southern United States give the narrative a rich flavor, helping readers of all backgrounds walk in the shoes of the protagonists. All too often, families keep secrets and hold grudges which adversely affect the authenticity of their relationships. Bringing these emotions into the light in this way helps young readers understand they are not alone and that there are ways to work through difficult moments.

Fox and Tennie have complementary superpowers—or super burdens in Tennie’s opinion—that give them the ability to both view memories and commune with ghosts. At first, these seem like innocuous skills, initially displaying past events in a tangential light. However, as troubled spirits become stronger and more driven, they increase the amount of danger Tennie and Fox are in. These scenes increase in intensity, causing my hair to stand on end and my pulse to race. Though these descriptions were frightening at times, the reason behind them becomes clear, ultimately removing any long-term fear factor thanks to logic.

So many moments in this story spoke to me directly, which endeared me to Tennie and her struggles throughout the book. I loved the relationship between Tennie and Fox because of its honesty. Rather than having anything to do with romance and kissing, their connection is based more on respectful mutual understanding and affection that stands apart from that found in similar stories. Middle grade readers transitioning to teenager-hood will appreciate this story about being true to oneself no matter what one’s superpowers happen to be.

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