Ruined by Paula Morris (again)

This post is dedicated to the lazy students writing book reports.

ETA, PLEASE NOTE: I am not able to give any help on this book. I’m closing comments for that very reason.


Setting: New Orleans, Louisiana, shortly after Hurricane Katrina blasted through and ruined (ahem) many lives and livelihoods. It’s definitely gloomy and spooky in places. [You don’t know how tempting it is for me to tell you cheaters this book takes place in Iceland. So tempting. Actually, there might be a scene in Iceland, towards the end. If I remember correctly (and I might not), Rebecca takes her beloved library books and whaps Helena over the head with them.]


Rebecca Brown, the main character. She likes libraries [and this is extremely important to the story].

Anton Grey, the hottie inexplicably drawn to Rebecca.

Helena Bowman, Rebecca’s snooty arch-nemesis.

Lisette, the ghost who helps Rebecca piece together the secrets of Rebecca’s life and the secrets of Lisette’s death.

Theme: I don’t know; months have passed since I read this book. If you’re writing a book report, you can always make something up. I frequently did (but before you think I’m getting all chummy or approving of you cheating by looking up these details on a website that maybe you can trust, maybe not, I will also say that I actually read the books I reported on. Except Moby Dick. But that is much longer than a 307-page contemporary fantasy and while some people actually enjoy reading Moby Dick (or say they do), that book was not for me). ETA Dec. 2015: I finally read Moby Dick! YAY!

As long as you can support whatever you say about the theme with evidence from the book, you should be golden. A good starting point for a theme is “friendship versus secrets.”

Symbols: Go for fire, gravestones, angels. Oh, and libraries. Again, what they symbolize is up to you, but you’ll impress your teacher if you cite evidence from the story or even – gasp! – supply quotations placed within quotation marks, followed by page numbers. If you are usually a slacker, and your teacher has a heart condition, please just skip this step. Pretend you don’t know what a symbol is. I don’t want to be responsible for any teacher deaths. Teachers work hard and deserve long happy lives.

That’s it. I didn’t rein in my tendency for parenthetical journeys into the Land of Totally Irrelevant. And it was oh, so fun.

12/6/2015. EDITED TO ADD: I am closing comments because I can’t offer help anymore. I read this book a loooong time ago and don’t remember enough to give specifics. I wish you students all the very best with your papers!


  1. Lydia · September 27, 2011

    I am a Jr. High student, and I actually am doing this book. I am also having trouble on the theme.. Theme is a message or moral and in this book I did not find a message or moral. What was the lesson learned from this book? I have no idea!! Even though you did not give a direct answer to the theme [I see why] , I found your information very helpful! Thank you for posting and your help!

    • Paula Morris · February 11, 2013

      Hi – I’m the author of RUINED (and its sequel, UNBROKEN). Like most writers, I don’t write with a message or moral in mind! I write to tell a story. I suppose you could argue that RUINED is a coming-of-age story that explores the nature of friendship/trust and identity …

      • Beth Hull · February 11, 2013

        Wow, Paula, thank you for commenting! (I broke my social media blackout to approve & respond to this comment, so you’re something special.) I really appreciate that you took the time to drop by and connect with readers. Thank you, also, for writing a great story that has generated such discussion!

  2. Lydia · September 27, 2011

    For my theme I am putting “The theme of this story is never give up because Lisette never gives up on her revenge, and Rebecca never gives up on making things right.” I know it isn’t really accurate, but at least I’ll pass! I hope this helps other students!!

    • Beth Hull · September 27, 2011

      Lydia, thank you for sharing! Theme can be really difficult. I think that your idea for the theme is excellent, and as long as you support it with evidence from the book, you’re good to go!

    • Anonymous · October 7, 2012

      Yeah, I’ll probably put something similar to that for the theme because when my teacher proofread my rough draft and she said that friendship versus secrets wasn’t a theme and that it needs work so I’ll just put this instead.

  3. Lexi · November 7, 2011

    I read this book very, very recently, and there is absolutely nothing about libraries…
    but other than that it was pretty accurate πŸ™‚ thx
    i am looking at this because i am in jr. high too and doing a report and the theme was fuzzy.. hehe

    • Beth Hull · November 7, 2011

      Thanks, Lexi, for chiming in! I could’ve sworn there was something about libraries, but then again, I mention Iceland. I really can’t be trusted.

  4. Jaina · December 11, 2011

    Actually, it does say she goes to the library to find books for research about the town… Just putting that out there. πŸ˜‰

    • Beth Hull · December 11, 2011

      Jaina, thank you for setting the record straight!

  5. Anonymous · January 24, 2012

    your information really helped alot with my book report the only thing i seemed to have trouble with that you didnt mention was the plot but overall you helped me alot(:

    • Beth Hull · January 24, 2012

      Glad to help, Anonymous! Plot’s a really tricky thing to tackle without giving the whole book away, but the basics are scattered throughout this post (with a few lies in there to keep things interesting & keep people honest(er)).

  6. meowmeow · February 21, 2012

    I’m doing a book project on this novel too…i just read the book reently and I’m sure i never heard tell of the Iceland scene…just wondering where you got that from..Your ‘cheat sheet’ helped me out quite a bit and i appreciate it greatly..Thank you

    • Beth Hull · February 21, 2012

      You’re welcome, meowmeow! Just be careful about anything you read on the internet…it might not always be true. Like Iceland in Ruined.

  7. Ariana Lovee · October 2, 2012

    Hi I’m a grade 7 doing a book report and just wondering how the heck would you make a connection for this? Just wondering of I could get a little help? And would this be man vs himself or man vs society? Of you could answer as soon as possible it would help out alot

    • Beth Hull · October 2, 2012

      Hi Ariana, I’m not sure what you mean about a connection – a connection to what? Real life? Or a connection to something else? As far as man vs. himself or man vs. society…who is Rebecca going up against? Identify the villain. If the villain comes from her, like she’s battling an aspect of herself (like her own pride, or her own stubbornness), then it’s man vs. himself. If she’s going up against something outside of her, like class issues (i.e. issues of wealth and status) it could be more of a society battle. I hope my questions help you figure things out!

    • Ariana Lovee · October 2, 2012

      Actually nevermind! Ignore all that I got it πŸ™‚ thanks anyways!

      • Ariana Lovee · October 2, 2012

        Oh by my last comment I meant I got the connection and yes the man vs himself… Did help thank you πŸ™‚

        • Beth Hull · October 2, 2012

          You’re welcome! I’m so glad you figured things out!

  8. Anonymous · October 4, 2012

    I finished this book just recently and I really liked it a lot. I am in Jr. High too as I see most people here are saying the same thing, but anyway I couldn’t figure out the theme for this book either. There’s not really any moral to the story, but I’m just gonna go with whatever you’re saying because I can’t seem to think of anything. And for my book report there has to be a chunk paragraph on theme so I’m just going to have to make it up along the way. lol It’s not like though I’m gonna get in trouble for making up a theme because the teacher hasn’t read it so how is she supposed to know??? Anyways though you really helped out a lot on the other details and things. I’m glad you made a site just for telling the plot and everything on this specific book cause otherwise I would of been stuck. πŸ™‚

    • Beth Hull · October 4, 2012

      Thanks, Anonymous, for sharing. I frequently had to “make things up” for essays on books and poems, and the cool thing was this: as I found evidence to support my “made up” theories, I actually started to believe they were true! It’s a great way to learn.

  9. Solitaire · October 27, 2012

    As far as theme goes, I think that the ideas of fate, karma, and retribution run pretty deeply throughout the book. Rebecca’s father has spent a lifetime trying to keep his daughter from facing her potential fate. In the end, however, she has to stand her chances against her fate just as the other girls in her family line have done. Lisette’s mother, unable to obtain justice for her daughter, chooses to exact her own brand of retribution. In doing so, she tacitly agrees to pay the ultimate price. The woman who commits the original evil deed refuses to accept the responsibility for it, resulting in the Bowman family’s attempts to outrun justice for generations; however, they have been unable to escape their Karma, and someone has paid the price in every generation. The karma and retribution haven’t really stopped with the Bowmans, either, because other families–including the Greys and the Suttons–also have the blood of the original deed on their hands. Even though the original debt seems to have been paid by the end of the book, I get the idea that the karma has not yet come full circle for some in the story … Toby, in particular.

  10. Samantha · April 15, 2013

    i am in jr high and I’m doing a book report on it and only made it to about page 120.. so i need quite a bit of help i have made up a lot because my teacher hasn’t read the book but how does the book end because i have to write a different ending to the book and its kinda hard because i don’t know the real ending.

    • Beth Hull · April 18, 2013

      Well…the chances of you writing the exact same ending as the author are pretty slim. You could always go wild, and have them drastically change the setting, because the real book ends in New Orleans. So if you change that, voila, a different ending! Good luck!

  11. dana · May 16, 2013

    hi i am asking if the book is third person limited or third person omniscient???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????2 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Beth Hull · May 16, 2013

      Okay, I’ll help you out. 3rd person limited is where you’re limited to one point of view. 3rd person omniscient is where you dip into the heads of more than one character. So, because I don’t remember the story exactly I can’t be sure, but I think we stay in Rebecca’s head the whole time, making it limited.

      • dana · May 16, 2013

        thanx for that πŸ™‚

  12. dana · May 16, 2013

    other questios how old is rebecca

    • Beth Hull · May 16, 2013

      That, I don’t remember. But most authors include that detail within the first chapter or two, so if you skim you might be able to find it. Good luck!

  13. dana · May 16, 2013

    well thank you i guess i really like you information that you have their i recently i rwead this bookk but that was the o for helping alot

    • Beth Hull · May 16, 2013

      You’re welcome!

  14. Bailey swanson · June 12, 2013

    It is the best book ever

  15. Dawn · September 15, 2015

    My daughter is doing a book report on this book, she is trying to give three physical traits of the character Rebecca, It says she’s tall, but not much else. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Beth Hull · September 15, 2015

      Hi Dawn, I wish I could be more help! But it was years ago that I read this book and I no longer even have a copy. I don’t know if this will be helpful or not, but often has descriptions of characters and other trivia from books. Here’s a link to Ruined: I’m wishing your daughter the best of luck on her report!

      • Dawn · September 15, 2015

        Thank you very much. I went back and read some and I think we were able to answer the question!

  16. Makayla · November 28, 2015

    I have a question on what the main problem is in this book. I’m having trouble.

    • Beth Hull · November 28, 2015

      What do you think the problem might be? Do you have any ideas?

      • Makayla · November 28, 2015

        The whole Lisette problem? I don’t know. I’m having trouble

        • Beth Hull · November 28, 2015

          Yeah, I think you’re on the right track! I mean, I read this…FIVE years ago…so I don’t remember much about it. But the problem could have to do with solving the mystery of Lisette’s death. Although I thought there was more to it, that Lisette’s death was connected with something in Rebecca’s present…. You might want to check out Goodreads or Shelfari. Sorry I can’t be more help!

          • Makayla · November 28, 2015

            Thanks for the help. Do you remember anything about the “curse” if that has to do with anything?

          • Beth Hull · November 28, 2015

            Hmm, not really, although if I were to guess, I’d say it probably has to do with how Lisette died? Good luck with this!

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