The Rules for Hearts: A Family Drama

Sara Ryan, Author
Sara Ryan, Author Viking Children's Books $16.99 (222p) ISBN 978-0-670-05906-5
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Fans of Ryan's debut novel Empress of the World will find her sophomore effort a satisfying follow-up, as well as an entertaining stand-alone for those just tuning in. The narrative picks up three years later, this time following 18-year-old Battle to Portland, Ore., for the summer, as she prepares to attend Reed College in the fall. Unbeknownst to her overprotective parents, she moves in with her long-lost brother, Nick, who ran away from home when Battle was 13, and she quickly acclimates to life among the residents of Forest House-a community theater troupe whose members cohabitate under one roof. As the summer wears on and rehearsals for A Midsummer Night's Dream are well underway, the housemates learn what it takes to make a play-and their household-come together, despite difficult circumstances. Battle continues to struggle with her sexuality after falling for 22-year-old Meryl, one of her roommates (who has also hooked up with Nick), and her relationship with her brother falters after his lying habit catches up to him. Readers will appreciate Ryan's open approach to discussing homosexuality, but some might wish for a more in-depth exploration of Battle's feelings beyond the mere description of her actions. The ending (and Nick's inevitable return to his parents after an intervention) feels abrupt, which may prompt some to wonder if there isn't another installment in the works. Ages 14-up.
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