Times are hard, and fifteen-year-old Ruby Jacinksi is forced to quit school and work at a meat packing plant to support her sister and ill mother. But Ruby’s life changes dramatically when Paulie, a handsome young man with a terrible reputation, takes an interest in her and encourages her to pursue a job at the Starlight room. There she can earn lots of money, get her family out of debt, and live a more exciting life by teaching lonely men how to dance.
For someone who loves dancing, the job is a dream-come-true; however, Ruby soon learns that it comes with a price. She’s forced to lie to her mother and avoid the constant hustle and manipulation from both the customers and her co-workers. As she continues to turn to Paulie for protection and advice, she unwillingly gets caught up in the seedier side of Chicago’s poor Yards district.
Christine Fletcher’s characters ring true to life in this unique glance into our country’s social history. Ruby is tough, strong, and determined, but still maintains the innocent and idealistic dreams of adolescence, thus endearing her to the reader. The grittier side of Chicago night life and the harsh pressure on war time youth to mature quickly is well illustrated, providing an eye-opening contrast to modern society. The story is intriguing, well-paced, and carefully researched and meets the higher bar of historical fiction expectations of contemporary youth.