Rules for Stealing Stars
Priscilla is eleven and the youngest of four sisters, who all call her "Silly." Her mom has a drinking problem, and her father, who is a professor who studies fairy tales, often seems like he doesn't live in the real world. Her older sisters are keeping a secret, and when they finally show it to Silly, it turns out their closets have magic - they can escape their home life for a while. But each closet has a different kind of magic, and it's not clear what the rules are. Is some magic safe? Or is it all a way to hide the truth?
A strength of this book is the realistic relationship between the similarly-aged sisters - especially the tension around the third sister, who never feels like she gets enough attention and tries desperately to find it. The older sisters are twins, one of whom has a first boyfriend her sisters resent because she uses him to escape the house. Priscilla has long been babied, so she's frustrated that they don't take her seriously, and they're frustrated that she has been over-protected. These relationships are skillfully drawn and complex, as are their feelings toward their mom. It will be a relief to some readers to find this imperfect family situation, and an eye-opener to others.
The fantasy element is sometimes a distraction for me in serious, otherwise realistic fiction, but this story works. I think this is due to some gorgeous writing, but it's also because we are familiar with the idea of going to a closet and finding magic in fiction. The idea that each sister's type of magic closet could be different adds an extra layer of charm, and the descriptions of the escapist magic may inspire readers to draw, paint, or build their own fantasy scenes.
"He feeds her a bunch of different flavors from tiny plastic spoons, and I get it, she has something special and new and lovely and we don't."
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