illustration by John Lawson
illustration by John Lawson


Modern Lovers by Emma Straub takes readers into the lives of two families, drawing parallels between the past chaos of the parental figures in the book and their children. Ruby, the daughter of Jane and Zoe, maneuvers her way around the ensuing chaos brought into the present day in her own way.

Born and raised in Ditmas Park, an ever present but frequently forgotten section of New York City, Ruby grew into a bold and fearless eighteen-year-old. In the toss and turn of the summer before college, Ruby finds herself in a limbo. Barely graduating and with no plans for college, she unintentionally sets out on an almost cliché journey of self-exploration (not digging on the book, it is wonderful and Emma Straub does a beautiful job of revealing Ruby’s complexities, I highly recommend it). 

Ruby is obviously taking a different route than most, but this isn’t unfamiliar territory for her. Mixed race and raised by two lesbian parents, not fitting into the norm is the norm for Ruby. The color of her hair changes with the seasons, most recently going from “sea-glass green to a purplish black.” Ruby has always stood out from the crowd. She rebels against everything, her most recent romantic pursuit a manifestation of this. Dust was a dead end guy, and as Ruby lost interest, Harry seemingly emerged from nowhere.

Harry embodies everything Ruby isn’t. He never gives his parents any trouble, he has a plan for the future, and he is determined to stick to that plan. That summer would have been a smooth sailing ride if things had gone to plan. But Ruby came in, shattering the plan. She created waves that led to a bumpy but thrilling ride.

Ruby is just that– an unexpected wave, coming into people’s’ lives and disrupting the normal flow of things. She may be written off as an archetypal teenage rebel, but beneath that surface evaluation, there’s much more depth. Her insecurities come forth, and through her acting out, the audience is exposed to parts of Ruby left unseen by the outside world.

Finding direction in lostness. Is that what we all desire? We may have plans for the future, but those are malleable, all subject to change. Ruby is a character that resonates with everyone who picks up the book because of this. Whether we are willing to admit it is a different story, but the truth of the matter is that we’re all a little lost in some form or another.

It would be easy to say that Ruby would wear all black all the time, but I don’t think think that’s the case for her. For graduation, she wore a white dress with “a crocheted bodice that was more negative space than material, with a skirt made of dangling strings that started just below decent. It was the kind of dress one wore over a bathing suit while on vacation in Mexico in 1973.” The following is a playlist of songs for the enigma that is Ruby:

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