I absolutely loved Corey Ann Haydu‘s OCD Love Story, so I was really excited when I saw her middle grades debut Rules for Stealing Stars (2015, Harper Collins). Haydu is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers of middle grades and young adult texts. Not only did she email me back when I was working on a piece about OCD in young adult literature (which I hope to present on and publish soon), but she wows me with her writing style.
Haydu has an enviable ability to describe characters’ pain and sadness in such a tragically realistic and beautiful way. I found Rules for Stealing Stars to be such a good read that it was a difficult read. It sticks with you even when you have to put it down for a day or two. Like the closets into which the four sisters go to explore both magical and haunting settings, Rules lures readers into its poetic pages.
Sissy, her three sisters, and parents move to New Hampshire so that her mom can get better from a condition that is not ever clearly articulated. But her mom does not get better. And their father is too preoccupied with being a professor whose specializes in fairy tales (which play a big part in the text) to realize the girls need help. Sissy and her sisters have to put together the mystery of their mom’s missing sister. The many closets in the house seem to have some clues.
Here’s what I LOVE about Rules for Stealing Stars:
(1) Sissy narrates this book. But this book showcases how the pain of a mentally ill parent and an absent parent impacts each of Sissy’s sisters. Each of Sissy’s sisters deal with the same problems in such different ways. Readers can identify with parts of multiple characters’ struggles, and this is a definite strength of the text.
(2) The powerful language. There are several little zingers within the text where I stopped, reread, and thought wow. Haydu has the ability to write tight, meaningful lines that really get to you. Here is a preview: “I don’t know what Mom loves anymore. Not us, I don’t think,” thinks Silly.
(3) Silly articulates what it is like for young kids to feel anxiety. She tells her sister Astrid “I’m worried about everything.” Lines like “I have the UnWorry now. In my hand” appear after she finds a source of comfort but also reveal the realities of a young girl and her sisters trying to cope with an unstable family. Although Haydu certainly does not sugarcoat the difficulties these four sisters face, she balances the sisters’ utter despair with hope. Haydu does not tie up everything in a perfect ending; the sisters realize that their lives will always have some difficulty. But they also learn that they do not need to take everything on by themselves. They come to realize that they can transfer some of their anxieties to the adults around them, which brings me to my final point….
(4) Told from Silly’s POV, Rules for Stealing Stars is also a book about parenting, about the need for young children to have adults who are able to care for them in their lives. Despite their attempts to try to raise themselves, Sissy and her sisters realize that they cannot parent themselves. And this is such a powerful message.
I want to hear from you! Tell me what you think of Rules for Stealing Stars in the comments below!