Ruby Gold Thompson is a fictional beauty queen in Jennifer Dugan’s YA romance Some Girls Do (2021). Named after two precious metals because she was precious to her mother, Ruby is a high school senior who has been competing in pageants her entire life: tiny mall pageants, themed pageants, big county pageants, and more. Though she enjoyed it as a kid, she hasn’t won any trophies in the past six years — and this doesn’t really bother her, as she’s started to lose interest in the whole pageant thing.
Despite her waning interest, Ruby doesn’t feel like she can quit. Some of this pressure comes from her mother, who’s deeply invested in Ruby’s pageant career. Ruby’s mother had her own promising career, with the chops to enter — and maybe even win — Miss Teen USA, a dream cut short when she became pregnant, unexpectedly, with Ruby. And that’s where the rest of the pressure to compete comes from: Ruby herself. She feels compelled to compete in her mother’s stead and maybe even win a Miss America title for her, like they always dreamed.
Never mind that Ruby would prefer to spend her time with her beloved car, a 1970 Ford Torino that she restored with the help of her mechanic ex-stepfather Billy. She convinces herself that she can live a double life, part for her mother, and part for herself, because she doesn’t see any other options. It isn’t until she meets Morgan, a lesbian track athlete and new student, that Ruby begins to see how unhappy she is living for other people.
Ruby isn’t out as bi at the beginning of Some Girls Do. She’s so deep in the closet that she doesn’t realize she’s in there at all — she’s written off an intense girlhood friendship as a fluke, and she pushes down her attraction to Morgan. This repression stems from Ruby’s fears over what will happen if she examines those feelings more closely: Ruby’s mother has made it clear that same-sex attraction is not acceptable. To avoid rocking the boat, Ruby focuses on her friends-with-benefits arrangement with lacrosse captain Tyler instead, something she sees as more socially acceptable and therefore safe.
Over the course of the novel, though, Ruby can’t forget about Morgan, and the two begin a complicated and messy friendship. They get closer in fits and starts, chatting afterschool while Morgan has track practice and Ruby is watching Tyler play lacrosse; as groupmates in a school project for Government; and then as something more — maybe — when they dance together at a house party. Despite the fact that both girls like each other, their lives are so different that they struggle to get on the same page, even in their best moments.
One of Ruby’s biggest struggles is her fear of being seen. She’s in awe of, and intimidated by, Morgan’s out-ness. She loves hanging out at the garage owned by her ex-stepfather, but she doesn’t want her mother to know that she still sees Billy, as their marriage ended badly. She’d rather study automotives after high school instead of continuing on the pageant circuit, but that feels like a betrayal of her mother. She doesn’t want to call Morgan her girlfriend because her mother won’t approve. All of this leaves Ruby feeling stuck and angry. She lashes out at anyone who gets too close — including Morgan, who decides to walk away from their budding relationship.
It’s only once Ruby begins making her own choices, by herself and for herself, that she begins to take control of her life. This involves, first and foremost, being honest about what she really wants. It involves admitting her sexuality to herself, and then, eventually, coming out — to her mom, Billy, her friends, everyone at school. “I might be bi or something,” Ruby says to Billy, the first person aside from Morgan to know. This honesty snowballs and leads to Ruby making other decisions, too. She comes out to her best friend Everly. She tells her mother about her professional aspirations. She tells her mother about Morgan, too. She moves out of her mother’s home and in with Billy, who promises her that he divorced her mother, not her. She reconciles with Morgan so they can face the future together.
By cutting through her double life, Ruby releases the restrictions she’s placed on herself. Though Some Girls Do ends here, it feels more like a beginning — this is the start of a new chapter for Ruby, who can finally live her life.