Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]
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. This summer, Silly feels more alone than ever when her sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot: sporting sunburned cheeks smudged with glitter and gold hair that looks like tinsel.
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 could tear them apart.
I was extremely excited to read Corey Ann Haydu’s middle grade debut; I’ve enjoyed every single one of her young adult novels - OCD Love Story, Life by Committee and Making Pretty. I can happily report that Rules for Stealing Stars possesses the same magical readability of her previous novels! While this story is meant for a younger audience, older readers will find this tale entertaining, clever and very well-written.
Silly and her sisters Marla, Eleanor & Astrid are four girls trying to learn how to deal with the difficult situation of an alcoholic, depressed mother and an absent-minded, oblivious father. In order to escape the hardship of their real lives, the girls find a coping method in the form of magical closets – closets where they can escape it all into a world where there is nothing to worry about, nothing sad, and nothing to fear. It is, without a doubt, one of the most realistic ways to cope I’ve ever seen portrayed in fiction, in spite of the fact that the closets seem to be powered by magical abilities, with Silly having the strongest affinity to the magic of them all.
This, in fact, is where Haydu’s writing ability truly shines with Rules for Stealing Stars. Yes, she manages to evoke a great setting with a cottage in New Hampshire within walking distance of a lake and an ice cream shop and the innards of magical closets, colored by magic and dioramas by Astrid. Yes, she creates fabulous characters in Silly and her sisters, who are all unique girls bound together by the blood running through their veins. But really, what I loved best was how she portrayed this difficult family situation and how it affected these kids. There is a combination of pain and guilt and anger and grief and confusion, and the mixed cocktail of emotions combined with their mother’s volatility and their father’s lack of guidance forces these four to grow up way faster than they needed to. There are mistakes made, feelings hurt and misguided choices born of desperation; but there is also a seed of hope, the bonds of sisterhood & love, and the understanding that real life isn’t always easy (but is always worth it).
Rules for Stealing Stars is a seriously phenomenal middle grade read. Haydu handles her story, injecting just the right balance of brevity and whimsy into it. I finished the novel with a smile on my face, hope in my heart and lots of affection for these characters, particularly these wonderfully interesting sisters (who reminded me of my own). It is most certainly a novel that I can highly recommend, and I insist that you put Rules for Stealing Stars on your radar!