Book Review: The Embittered Ruby by Nicole O’Dell

Sixteen-year-old Carmen Castillo prays that her parents will patch things up so she can return to her once-lavish life. Trapped by resentment and anger, she heads to Diamond Estates hoping to find some healing for her embittered soul. Desperately homesick, Carmen concludes there is no such thing as ruby slippers. . .but is there still a chance she’ll get what her heart longs for?


I first heard about Ms. O’Dell on the Seekerville blog [we all know it’s one of my favorite places to hang out online]. I requested the first book in the Diamond Estates series, The Wishing Pearl, from my library – they purchased it and I checked it out.

The series is YA, something I’d like to write someday – as a spin-off from one of my adult series – and my husband works with kids like these. His employer is a facility for boys, but there are many of the same kinds of issues. I was scrolling through the NetGalley books available and found book 2 in the series available. I’ve requested it for my library, but this copy was provided by NetGalley and the publisher.

The Embittered Ruby is the story of Carmen Castillo. Her family recently moved from a posh neighborhood to one where gangs and drugs are an ever-present threat. Her choices lead to her move to Diamond Estates, a residential facility for girls in the Colorado mountains.

Ms. O’Dell did a wonderful job portraying Carmen’s life – both back in the posh neighborhood with her father and in the new area with her mom. Granted, I’ve never lived in either place, but it was believable to me.

The characters sometimes frustrated me, but they’re teenagers. That’s a big part of it. I wish they’d learn the lesson an easier way ;). The romance thread worked well for me until the very end. I understand why Ms. O’Dell made the decisions she did with regards to the storyline, but I still hope the characters may show up in later books with a bit more… closure? I’m not sure that’s the right word, but maybe more development of life after ‘the end’. Given that the characters from The Wishing Pearl showed up in this work, it seems likely Carmen and others may appear in the next works.

Though this is a YA, I think I would reserve it for 15-16 year olds, with conversation from the adults in their lives. That said, younger teens may benefit from reading it as well, but I’d recommend Mom or Dad read it first and judge for themselves. Again, conversations with parents would be a good way to help ensure the lessons learned are the ‘right’ ones and to answer any questions the teen may have.

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.