Laura Ruby, "Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All" (Balzer and Bray, 2019)


Francesca and Toni are brought to the orphanage when their mother suffers a breakdown and dies, and their father gets involved with a new woman. Their story, set in Chicago of the 1940s, unfolds during the course of the novel. There’s another girl too though, whose voice intersperses herself into the everyday happenings. This is the ghost, Pearl, who would much rather observe other people’s stories then think about her own unhappy one. It takes the friendship and confrontational questions of another traumatized ghost, for her to come to terms with the painful memories of her strict mother and hateful brothers.

In meantime, Frankie goes through her teen years and experiences her first love—and loss. Pearl, witnessing Fran’s emotions, is brought closer to her own lost life.

The setting of the orphanage is well researched—more about that in the interview with Laura Ruby—and Pearl’s afterlife is original and poignant. The ghost girl reads the Hobbit over the shoulders of a library visitor, goes to a bar where she drinks not-bourbon served by a ghost barkeeper, and keeps revisiting a certain blue house, to watch a young woman and her lover inside.

The themes of forbidden love, racism, and dispossession will draw in many young readers. Listen in as I speak with Laura about Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (Balzer and Bray, 2019)

Gabrielle Mathieu is the author of the YA fantasy, Girl of Fire, the first in the Berona’s Quest series, and the historical fantasy Falcon series. You can follow her on Twitter to get updates about new podcasts and more @GabrielleAuthor, or visit her website at

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