The Ruining

( 3 )


Annie Phillips is thrilled to leave her past behind and begin a shiny new life on Belvedere Island, as a nanny for the picture-perfect Cohen family. In no time at all, she falls in love with the Cohens, especially with Libby, the beautiful young matriarch of the family. Life is better than she ever imagined. She even finds romance with the boy next door.

All too soon, cracks appear in Annie's seemingly perfect world. She's blamed for mistakes she doesn't remember making. Her ...

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The Ruining

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Annie Phillips is thrilled to leave her past behind and begin a shiny new life on Belvedere Island, as a nanny for the picture-perfect Cohen family. In no time at all, she falls in love with the Cohens, especially with Libby, the beautiful young matriarch of the family. Life is better than she ever imagined. She even finds romance with the boy next door.

All too soon, cracks appear in Annie's seemingly perfect world. She's blamed for mistakes she doesn't remember making. Her bedroom door comes unhinged, and she feels like she's always being watched. Libby, who once felt like a big sister, is suddenly cold and unforgiving. As she struggles to keep up with the demands of her new life, Annie's fear gives way to frightening hallucinations. Is she tumbling into madness, or is something sinister at play?

The Ruining is a complex ride through first love, chilling manipulation, and the terrifying depths of insanity.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Nancy Wallace
When Annie Phillips accepts a job as a nanny in California, it seems like the perfect opportunity. Annie is desperate to get away from her current situation and the haunting memory of her little sister's death by drowning, for which she blames herself. Libby Cohen seems like the perfect wife and mother—beautiful, intelligent, and talented—and she immediately charms Annie. Annie feels incredibly lucky to have found a job that allows her to attend college and live with the ideal family. When her next door neighbor, Owen, provides a romantic interest, Annie thinks life cannot get any better. Then, Libby begins to make unusual demands on Annie's time, and Annie's bedroom door is removed for repair, leaving her with no privacy at all. Libby's mood swings become dangerous as she blames Annie for things beyond her control. When Libby has Annie committed to a mental institution, Owen intervenes, discovering Libby's darker motives. This psychological thriller weaves a fascinating web of deceit and madness. Libby preys on Annie's weaknesses, choosing her specifically as a nanny because she was delinquent in caring for her little sister. Thanks to Owen, Libby is implicated in the death of her husband's first wife and a plot to eliminate their daughter, Zoe, who is in Annie's charge. The author cleverly ties in literary references from Annie's college course involving induced mental illness. Reminiscent of Henry James's The Turn Of The Screw, nothing is as it appears, keeping the reader guessing until the final page. This novel will find a wide and eager audience, lending itself well to book discussions groups. Reviewer: Nancy Wallace
Children's Literature - Toni Jourdan
Life was not glamorous for Annie Phillips growing up. She could not wait to graduate from high school and get away from Detroit, not to mention the gray and colorless home where she lived with her alcoholic mother and Dean, her sketchy stepfather. So when she sees an ad for a position as a nanny thousands of miles away, Annie jumps at the opportunity. She packs all her belongings into a backpack and moves in with the Cohens on Belvedere Island in sunny northern California. The Cohens are a picture perfect family: beautiful young Libby, her easygoing and handsome husband Walker and their two children, Zoe and baby Jackson. Annie's job is to watch over Zoe, but she is also attending classes at nearby San Francisco State University. Sure she is busy, but not so busy that she does not notice Owen, the gorgeous neighbor boy who is showing some interest in her. It is a dream life for Annie to melt into, sloughing off her past and becoming the California girl that she has always wanted to be. When Libby starts to show extra interest in Annie's life, she welcomes the attention and they develop an almost sisterly relationship. Then Libby starts calling Annie "Nanny" while insisting that she is still calling her "Annie." At first, Annie thinks maybe she is just hearing her own name wrong, but things have become strained and she notices that Libby never pays attention to Zoe. Then, Annie finds a death certificate when she accidentally knocks over a box in the garage. It looks as though Walker was married before, which is not unusual, but Libby's reaction to her seeing the certificate is. Mary Poppins meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, this suspenseful story draws readers in and thrills with roller coaster-like shifts. Here, Collomore blends just enough suspense and romance to make a great read. Reviewer: Toni Jourdan
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Libby Cohen, the gorgeous young mother of an infant and a toddler, opens her palatial Belvedere Island, San Francisco home to a downtrodden nanny from the mean streets of Detroit, giving her employment and the chance to attend college. Annie is still torn by guilt over the drowning death of her little sister some years prior. It doesn't take long to see that the naïve and impressionable girl is completely outclassed by her employer, a master manipulator. What motivates Libby to draw Annie in like a sort of sister one moment and then to nag, judge, and abuse her the next? Whether Libby is just plain evil or is calculating a way to use Annie to further her own ends becomes lost as Annie attends fewer classes at the university and discovers a secret that savvy readers may have quickly suspected: Libby is not the first Mrs. Cohen. Loss of privacy and choice soon put Annie at Libby's mercy, especially once Libby has engineered a break-up of the whirlwind relationship between the nanny and practically perfect Owen next door. Sinister yellow wallpaper, mind games, and even Valium all bring Annie to the brink of, well, ruin. The book meanders too long and strains credulity and logic in spots, but it does manage to play on readers' fears for the character and instill a dark sense of claustrophobia.—Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA
Kirkus Reviews
A compelling psychological thriller presents a vulnerable girl on the brink of madness. This intriguing take on the classic story "The Yellow Wallpaper," finds Annie, a refugee from poverty in Detroit, moving to a mansion in San Francisco to become the nanny for a wealthy couple's 3-year-old girl, Zoe. The couple pays Annie's tuition at San Francisco State University and promises her a measure of freedom to study and have a social life. Almost immediately, however, Libby, Zoe's beautiful mom, takes over Annie's life, giving her clothing, choosing her university classes and deluging her with advice. Annie idolizes Libby, but she finds her increasingly hard to please. Libby finds fault with minor things, becoming especially unhappy when Annie begins a romance with Owen, the handsome, smart and super-nice guy next door. She demands most of her time, takes the door off Annie's room and begins to install hideous yellow wallpaper there. As time passes, Libby becomes ever more hostile, accusing Annie of things the girl has no memory of doing and causing Annie enormous anxiety. Collomore supplies enough clues for astute readers to guess what's going on, but she builds the suspense from Annie's viewpoint until readers will be flipping through the pages till they run up against the too-neat resolution. Up until then, however, this story unwinds as a corker of a read with an unreliable, or perhaps not, narrator. Gripping stuff. (Suspense. 12 & up)
From the Publisher
"A compelling psychological thriller presents a vulnerable girl on the brink of madness. Collomore builds the suspense from Annie’s viewpoint until readers will be flipping through the pages. . . . Gripping stuff."—Kirkus, starred review

"Collomore's novel builds at a pitch-perfect pace, and readers will feel appropriately uncomfortable as it all unfolds. Gripping, unputdownable stuff."—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595144706
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 2/7/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,529,717
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Collomore—a devotee of dairy products, small mammals, and thrift stores—is a former book editor from New York City. Now she lives, writes, and au pairs in Paris. Find out more about Anna and THE RUINING at

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The one thing from the description of The Ruining by author Anna

    The one thing from the description of The Ruining by author Anna Collomore that really caught my eye was the word ‘insanity’. A hundred things went through my mind and combined with what the back of the novel told me about the novel, a thousand possibilities about the plot flew through my imagination. When I think of insanity I think of psychopathic clowns and men who just want to watch the world burn. While there were no scarred adults with purple suits, The Ruining does have bouts of insanity within its pages and does deal with manipulation and the possibility of murder. Everything about this story left me on the edge of my seat, played with my mind and toyed with my emotions.

    As you can imagine, it was a fun read.

    The Ruining focuses on the life of main character Annie Phillips who leaves her broken family and past behind in Detroit in exchange for the opportunity of a lifetime on Belvedere Island by becoming a nanny for the Cohen family. At first, everything looks perfect. The Cohen’s are the epitome of what a family should be, Mrs. Cohen—or Libby is the friend that Annie has always wanted and Owen, the boy next door, is beginning to steal Annie’s heart all while she goes to University and then babysits the Cohen’s three year old daughter Zoe. It’s not until Annie accidentally comes across a few old files that she discovers that Libby isn’t Walker’s first wife and that his first died. Suddenly Libby becomes bitter and hateful towards Annie and soon Annie begins to have hallucinations and finds parts of her mind slipping away. Annie finds herself delving into a world full of manipulation, insanity and secrets better left alone for Annie’s own good.

    Right off the hop when reading the Ruining I knew that something was wrong with the Cohen family. I knew that something was off and that that could only lead to something far darker than what’s revealed on the surface. When I was only a couple of chapters into the novel the use of dialogue and Annie’s thoughts definitely set a tone for the story and created a consistent flow. I could also tell that something was wrong with Libby who not only reminded me of just about every psychopathic seductress I’ve ever seen in pop culture but also made a great antagonist for Annie. There’s a clash of personalities and as Libby grows more and more desperate (while Annie sinks deeper and deeper into her insanity) we see the darker sides of her character.

    Insanity and mind games play a big role in the novel. As the novel progresses, Annie does begin to have more hallucinations and starts to lose her mind. While most of it is because of Libby and her possessiveness of the life she has right now, I did enjoy reading about the stages that Annie undergoes that lead to her being sent to a mental hospital. While that doesn’t happen until much later in the novel, the chapters that took place in the mental hospital were ones that left me wondering if it was Arkham Asylum creeped right out. There is one scene that I think captures the unstable minds of both Annie and Libby which is where Annie basically calls Libby out on her dislike of Zoe and pushes Libby to her limits.

    The romance in the novel, I found, was pretty cute. It starts out with a somewhat clichéd encounter and soon grows into something a lot more meaningful and cute. However as Owen, the boy next door, and Annie take their relationship farther and farther the more against it Libby becomes. Soon Libby begins to put thoughts into Annie’s mind about Owen and tries to control the relationship herself even if Annie doesn’t know it. Whenever Libby is around the couple things get creepy and it doesn’t take Owen long to figure out just what is really going on in the Cohen household and what skeletons are in Libby’s closet.

    I’d recommend The Ruining to fans of psychological thrillers, readers who are looking for a novel that they will grow addicted to and readers who want a novel that will play out in your mind like a movie.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 8, 2014

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    Posted August 5, 2013

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