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Rules for Stealing Stars

Review

Rules for Stealing Stars

The strange and compelling magic found in Corey Ann Haydu's first novel for middle grade readers, RULES FOR STEALING STARS, has a dark and frightening side as well. The book tells the story of Priscilla, called Silly, and her three older sisters as they struggle with their mother Miranda's depression and alcoholism, each navigating the rough terrain in different ways.

Eleven-year-old Silly, along with her parents and sisters, have just moved to her mother's childhood home in New Hampshire. It’s the house they have always summered in, but the permanent move is not a cause for celebration; Silly is devastated to leave her home and best friend behind in Massachusetts and scared because the move means her mother is not doing well.

Her older twin sisters, Eleanor and Astrid, have their own twin world and teenage concerns to occupy them. Plus, she has always had a tense relationship with her twelve-year-old sister Marla, especially because Marla always placates and defends their mother, even when she is drunk, irrational and violent. Their father, a scholar of fairy tales and folklore, tends to turn a blind eye to his wife's behavior and health, otherwise sending her away to rehab for months at a time. Their home is a chaotic and strained place to be. When Silly discovers one of the secrets the twins have been hiding --- fantastical closets that transform and transfix --- her life and her sisters’ lives begin to change in thrilling but dangerous ways.

Haydu's blend of fantasy and realism makes the harrowing truth of living in a dysfunctional household all the more vivid.

 The closet in one room allows Astrid’s beautiful dioramas to come to life. The girls slip into them and find themselves free of worry and distress. Eleanor and Astrid warn Marla and Silly that the closet in another room must be avoided, and Silly sees for herself that the magic inside it is terrible. But Marla is attracted to it and its insidious promise of escape. It soon becomes apparent that Silly is able to control the closet magic in ways the other sisters cannot and that gives her new status and power in the family. As the girls explore the magical realm, they learn more about their parents and the origins of their mother's illness and addiction.

Haydu's blend of fantasy and realism makes the harrowing truth of living in a dysfunctional household all the more vivid. The pain the sisters feel is palpable and the responses from each are interesting and heartbreaking. The idea of magic closets or closets as portals is nothing new, but Haydu employs the idea in an interesting way, offering her characters a way out of a bad situation but also a way to confront and change the situation for themselves. The depiction of Miranda's illness is scary and sad and idea that magic is healing but also destructive is engaging.

RULES FOR STEALING STARS is a poignant and thoughtful story, wonderfully written and full of the kinds of ideas and characters that stick with you long after you finish the book. There are a lot of themes that lend themselves to important conversations with young readers, as well.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on September 29, 2015

Rules for Stealing Stars
by Corey Ann Haydu

  • Publication Date: May 23, 2017
  • Genres: Children's, Family
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • ISBN-10: 0062352733
  • ISBN-13: 9780062352736