October 01, 2019

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

By Laura Ruby
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In Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, Printz Medal-winner Laura Ruby weaves a heart-wrenching story about loss and familial bonds as two girls, an orphan and a ghost, struggle to make their way during the early 1940s.

Pearl, who narrates, died in 1918 and haunts the Chicago orphanage where Frankie is abandoned by her father, a poor shoemaker. Pearl watches as Frankie endures both harsh treatment by the nuns and the heartbreak of her father’s remarriage and subsequent move to Colorado without her. Frankie must also weather the loss of her first love, who enlists in the Army at the height of war. 

Over time, Pearl meets other spirits and begins to unburden herself of the secrets that keep her locked in the mortal realm. She discovers that her afterlife doesn’t have to be spent wandering Chicago’s streets, trapped in an endless loop.

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All calls to mind A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, another story that explores the struggles, heartache and joy of those who grew up without privilege in the early 20th century. Pearl is a tragic heroine, a product of the social expectations placed on a beautiful young woman in the late 1910s, and Frankie comes of age amid the uncertainty and instability of World War II—yet both refuse to succumb to hopelessness. A beautiful and lyrical read that pushes against the boundaries of what we often think a young adult novel can contain, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All is sure to garner Ruby even more acclaim.

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