Not My Ruckus is a disturbing and compelling novel told from an unusual perspective. While not labeled “Young Adult,” it seems geared for this audience.
It’s 1980 in Texas, where 14-year-old Clare lives with Frank, her big but cowardly older brother; her “ample” mother and her secretive father. There are bars on the windows, locks on the refrigerator and secrets lurking in a crawl space, but Clare attributes all this to her family’s religiosity.
Clare’s only friend, Esther, lives across the street, and when the novel opens, their mothers have gone shopping together, even though Clare’s mother has long insisted that Esther’s family “wasn’t our kind of people.” The outing ends tragically, when what Clare’s mother describes as a Mexican-looking man in a “big yellow sombrero,” jumps into the car and shoots the other woman. Clare knows her mother is lying, but can’t figure out why.
Esther is savvier, but her circumstances are more dire; she’s left with her drunken father, who abuses her by day and takes her out at night dressed in unusual outfits. As the novel unspools, unsavory secrets and dramatic events haunt both Esther and Clare’s lives.
Readers see this twisted world strictly through Clare’s eyes. While the consistency is a strength, it can also be frustrating. Clare fails to pick up on subtle clues from others. She’s also impetuous and often acts rashly. She believes her parents when they say her frequent seizures are caused by the devil. In an Author’s Note at book’s end Musick offers an explanation. He writes that he’s autistic and epileptic and aimed to create a protagonist with similar problems. It would have helped to know this before the story started.
Still, readers will likely sympathize with Clare’s depiction. The action is fast-paced and the ending utterly satisfying.
Readers who enjoy stories about plucky teens in peril will find Musick’s novel well written. And because Clare’s viewpoint is so literal, the crimes are more horrific—and the redemption even sweeter.
Also available in hardcover, ebook and audio book.