The Slumber Party Payback is the third book in the Ruby and the Booker Boys series by Derrick Barnes. Ruby is the youngest in her family, and the only girl after her three brothers, Marcellus, Tyner, and Roosevelt. Roosevelt, who calls himself Ro Rowdy, is the chief antagonist in this story, where Ruby wants to host a sleepover party. The last time she had friends sleep over, Ro ruined the party with a series of pranks. This time, Ruby hopes he will keep out of her business, but when he proves that he can’t, she decides the best solution is to pay him back with a taste of his own medicine.
To its credit, this book has an upbeat, fun tone, and Ruby herself is a positive girl who tries not to let things get her down. Unfortunately, the entire time I was reading, I had this sense that something was slightly off. One problem is the way Ruby and her friends talk. The girls often address each other as “girl” or “girlie.” I think it’s reasonable that they might do this some of the time, but it happens so often in this book that it started to become cartoonish. I have heard writers give the advice that less is more when it comes to writing with local color. I think the same is true for characters using slang terms and pet names. The reader could still understand the flavor of the girls’ speech if half the “girls” and “girlies” were cut out of the text.
Another thing that doesn’t make sense to me is how willing Ruby’s parents are to let her brother terrorize her guests and ruin her party. No wonder she’s thinking about revenge - there isn’t any sort of fair discipline set up in her household to keep things in order. The parents both seem very involved and interested otherwise, so it doesn’t seem consistent that they just never discipline any of their kids. It obviously serves the plot well to have them ignore Ro’s behavior, but I don’t think it works in the greater context of their family.
My biggest complaint, I think, is that this book never let me dive in and forget that I was reading a book. The dialogue does not sound genuine, and that kept me from buying into the world of the story. That said, girls with older brothers will undoubtedly sympathize with Ruby’s brother-related plights, and this series brings some welcome diversity to the early chapter book format.
I received The Slumber Party Payback from a giveaway hosted by Biblio File last year.