I am reviewing this book as part of
the Lesbian Teen Novels Week hosted here.
If you would like more information about the week,
Summary from Goodreads:
Battle Hall Davies is sure of some things: she's going to Reed; she loves girls; and her older brother, Nick, is cooler than she could ever be. Nick ran away when Battle was in high school, and four years later, he's tracked her down. Now she's spending her summer before college in Forest House, the co-op where he lives in Portland. Battle is quickly swept into Forest House's community Shakespeare production, its all-night card games, and the arms of her new roommate, Meryl. It turns out that Nick isn't who Battle thought he was and Battle's not who she thought she was, either.
Even though the book isn't a sequel strictly speaking (you can read this one without having read Empress Of The World), it is still set after Empress Of The World so I will try to keep the spoilers at bay, but be warned! Head over here to read my review of Empress Of The World.
I honestly couldn't say which of the two books I prefer. They do have things in common, the characters, the style of writing the general characteristics of the story, but they are stories so different that I can't even compare (not that you should compare books in the first place). I felt very different emotions while reading them and they also brought me different things. Sara Ryan's stories are like a snippet of her characters' lives. It follows them during the few months of summer and then leaves them without trying to force on a resolution or some sort of closure on the story. I like that aspect because it feels like real life so much more than a story with a clear-cut beginning, middle and end.
Battle has finished high school and the summer before going to college she goes to Portland to live in the cooperative house with her brother Nick. Nick left his parents' home at 16 and never gave any news to them, but he kept a bit contact with Battle. Battle loves her brother and she missed him so much. You have the feeling that during his absence, she kind of idolised him. Progressively, Battle gets on with the day-to-day life at the house and begins to see through her brother and learn more of who he is as well as who she is herself.
As in Empress of the World, the focus of the book is on characters and The Rules for Hearts has a bigger cast of varied personalities. Since we are seeing the story through Battle's eyes, we get a much better glimpse as to who she is and how she has evolved since the previous year. We also get to know more about what happened in her family and why Nick left. His personality is interesting and I feel that one of Sara Ryan's talent is to show a person with everything laid out in the open and you can't say this person is good or bad because this is so irrelevant. I *love* Meryl :D she is just so unique! I don't agree with everything she does but she has a great personality and she is a nice counterpart for Battle. I love the characters in the house, I live myself in a shared flat and having roommates is awesome (except when they do karaoke every night)!
The family is explored in this, but it is more the family you choose than the one you inherit. You might not be able to fit in with your family as much as you want, and sometimes, you create your own family along the road with people you meet and who know and understand you. It definitely symbolises the change from the friends and family you might have during high school when still living with your parents to entering adulthood and daring more to stand up for yourself. That's for me why it would be a really interesting book for 16 year olds and older to read before they leave their home for Uni themselves.
I love how homosexuality and other gender identity themes are present in the book without being the focus. It *is* an LGBT novel, but that's not all it is. If Empress Of The World explored that part of Battle's life where she comes to term with her sexuality, The Rules For Hearts is more a time for Battle to experience life, which is one of the reasons why those two novels are so different in a sense. There is some romance in there as well and I loved how realistically and sensitively it was portrayed.
The book is centred around A Midsummer's Night Dream which Aurora (owner of the house where they live) is directing so there's a cast list at the beginning and the chapters are divided in Acts and scenes. I *loved* that! Such a great way to link style and plot and the preparations for the play are great to read.
In just two books, I became a huge fan of Sara Ryan and her style and I really love her take on the characters she created. This story features some more "grown up" themes and really explore that moment where teenagers become adults and choose their lives for themselves. Everyone should read this book :)
The Rules For Hearts by Sara Ryan | 2007 | Speak | Bought on Amazon