Handsome boy meets beautiful girl. They discover they are soul mates. Their parents forbid them to see one another. Just like any other love story, except this is where the similarity between Ruby Red and any other teenage novel ends. Set in South Africa during Apartheid, Ruby Winters is like any normal girl at school. She is attractive, popular, clever, and a school prefect. But her home life is far from normal – her mother and father are both defenders of Black rights. If they are discovered, it would mean immediate arrest, and maybe even a death warrant.
When Ruby travels to the rival local Afrikaans school, the blond-haired, blue-eyed captain of rugby, Johann, is pointed out to her by a friend. It is by chance she is left talking to Loretta, who, like Johann, is from Stuenmakaar, while she waits at the school gates for her father to collect her. For Ruby, the language her new friend speaks does not matter in the slightest, but to her parents, an Afrikaans-speaking visitor to their English home presents immense danger.
Over time her friendship with Loretta strengthens, and it turns out that Johann is her brother. A forbidden relationship ensues, resulting in her nearly being expelled from school. But with this new relationship, will she lose the friendship of Julian, the artist from Soweto she has grown so close to? And will she end up paying the ultimate price for her love? I found the novel powerful, emotional and moving. It is well written, and many teenagers can relate to the theme of forbidden love, and empathise with the loneliness that Ruby feels.