Monday, November 9, 2015

Rules for Stealing Stars - Corey Ann Haydu

Title: Rules for Stealing Stars
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2015 (Hardcover)
Length: 319 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction/Fantasy
Started: October 25, 2015
Finished: November 6, 2015

From the inside cover:

Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she's too little for most things - especially when it comes to dealing with their mother's unpredictable moods and outbursts. But for Silly, that's normal. She hardly remembers a time when Mom wasn't drinking.

This summer, Silly is more alone than ever, and it feels like everyone around her is keeping secrets. Mom is sick all the time; Dad acts like everything's fine when  clearly it isn't; and Silly's sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot and giggling about jokes that Silly doesn't understand.

When Silly is brought into her sisters' world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she's soon forced to wonder if it might tear them apart.

This received a lot of hype, and I haven't read a good middle grade book in a while, so I decided to pick this up. Thankfully the hype is well deserved.

Priscilla is the youngest of four sisters: fourteen-year-old twins Eleanor and Astrid, twelve-year-old Marla, and eleven-year-old Silly. Their dad is a professor who studies fairy tales and folklore, and their mom is an alcoholic. After being "Away" several times for treatment but without much improvement, Silly and her sisters are forced to walk on eggshells around their mom while they spend the summer in a new home. When their mom turns her temper on the girls, the older sisters take to their rooms, leaving Silly to fend for herself. When they finally tell her what they've been up to, Silly discovers why they could spend hours in their bedrooms. The closets in their rooms are magical, some good, some bad. Marla's closet shows you what you want or need to see, Eleanor's closet makes dioramas come to life, and Astrid's closet is the one that Silly is warned not to go into, the one that will make you want to stay inside forever and fade from people's memories. When their mom deteriorates further and goes Away once again, the girls each have their own ways of coping. When one sister ventures into Astrid's closet, the rest need to find a way to make her want to come back and face reality with a renewed sense of hope.

This book was both beautiful and sad at the same time. Silly's attempts to describe and deal with her mother's behaviour are childishly simple but strangely truthful. Anyone who has experience with alcoholic or otherwise toxic family environments might actually find this triggering. The realistic portion of the story I feel was well-done, I enjoyed how all the sisters were very distinct in terms of personalities and how they reacted, even the twins were very much individuals rather than a unit. The four of them aren't great sisters in the beginning, but eventually learn from their mistakes to communicate better so that they can be there for each other in the absence of their parents. The magical aspect regarding the closets was an interesting way to give hope to the girls' situation, I think the author handled it well.

Beautiful yet sad, and altogether amazing.

Thoughts on the cover:
Pretty and very fitting for the story.

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