Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
It is 1941 in Chicago. Ruby is fifteen years old, her father is dead, and her mother’s arthritis has cost her her job at the meat-packing plant. Ruby has a choice: she can work in the plant stuffing pig’s feet in jars for below subsistence pay or she can pretend she is older, play a dangerous game, and make a lot more money.
Ruby narrates her story with a tone that suggests a fully grown woman looking back on her youthful foolishness. The suspense that swiftly turns the pages in this novel is the possibility that Ruby may get in too deep with bad boys and her own lies, that she may become irreversibly corrupted or worse.
Ten Cents a Dance reminded me of hard-boiled detective novels of the fifties in that it deals with the underbelly of life (nightclubs, crime, and blatant racism) and yet remains remarkably clean. As a modern young adult novel, it is a tale about a teenage girl under pressure to assume the dullest of adult responsibilities while in her heart she wants only to burst into a free life of romance and glamour. A strong will and an appreciation for friendship and family are about all Ruby has on her side. Teen-age girls will like this book–parents of younger kids might want to read it first.