Friday, August 23, 2013

The Rules (book) by Stacey Kade

The Rules is YA sci fi romance. It's the first book in Kade's Project Paper Doll series. My copy is an ARC I picked up at a conference, but it's been out for a few months - it shouldn't be hard to find in a bookstore or library.

Synopsis:

Ariane was born a test subject, a blend of human and alien DNA. When she was six years old, a guard broke her out and hid her in plain sight, using the story that she was his daughter and that he'd recently gotten custody of her. Since then, Ariane's life has been governed by five rules. Never trust anyone. Remember they are always searching. Don't get involved. Keep your head down. Don't fall in love.

Except it's hard always living behind a mask, being as invisible as possible. When Ariane's one friend, Jenna, becomes the target of cruel pranks, Ariane can't help but stand up for her. This brings her to the attention of Rachel, the spoiled queen of the school, and Zane, one of the people in Rachel's circle of friends/minions. Zane has become really tired of Rachel's games, and he thinks he might be able to both take her down a notch or two and protect Ariane from her...but he'll need Ariane's cooperation. Ariane soon learns that, after breaking one of the Rules, it becomes easier and easier to break the rest.

Review:

Fast-paced YA is really working out well for me right now. I managed to read this in a little over a day, and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I've been having problems writing this review. I've decided it's time for another bullet point review.

Things I liked:
  • The romance: This aspect of the book was fabulous. Ariane didn't magically fall for Zane. She thought he was physically attractive – he reminded her of Superman, her fictional crush – but in all other areas he had to earn her trust. He had noticed, in the past, that she'd come to school with broken fingers, and that she flinched away from people who tried to touch her. He thought her father was overly controlling, and he guessed he was also abusive (not actually the case, but Zane didn't know that). He did his best to behave in ways that wouldn't frighten her. He gave her space when he talked to her, so that he didn't loom over her. One of my favorite moments was when Ariane was about to turn away and leave, and Zane stopped her not by grabbing her arm, but rather by grabbing the edge of her bag. He didn't want to scare or upset her by touching her without permission. I loved that.
  • Zane: I was iffy about him, at first. He was friends with Rachel even though he seemed to hate her, and he did nothing to stop her cruel prank at the beginning of the book. As the book progressed, however, I came to like and feel sympathy for him. He'd lived his life in the shadow of his older brother, constantly trying and failing to please his father. Being Rachel's friend was part of that, since her family, particularly her grandfather, was influential. After Zane's mother ran off, Zane figured she'd left him behind because he'd become too horrible, tried too hard to get his father's approval. His only friends were people who did cruel things for laughs, and he wasn't sure how to break free without ending up completely alone. Every time he did something sweet and/or perceptive, I wanted to hug him.
  • Ariane: I sympathized with her almost from the start, but those feelings deepened as I got to know more about what her life was like at the research facility and in the years after she escaped. I won't say too much, because that would spoil things, but there was more to her life in the research facility than just being poked and prodded, demonstrating super powers while under constant supervision. Dr. Jacobs was a horrible guy.
Things I disliked:
  • The weak science fiction aspects: Although I considered this a science fiction romance, the science fiction aspects were a lot weaker than the romance aspects. For most of the book, Ariane had no control of or access to her telekinetic powers. She disguised her appearance as much as possible in order to blend in, darkening her hair, wearing contacts, and hiding the identification number tattooed on her right shoulder blade. No one but her “father” had any idea she was part alien. Some of the science fiction elements weren't even all that consistent. For example, early on Ariane states that the list of things that would kill her is shorter than the list of things that would kill a full-blooded human, and yet I never saw any evidence of this. In fact, the constant mentions of her fragile bones made her seem weaker than full humans.
  • Weak secondary characters: Zane and Ariane were wonderful, sympathetic characters. The secondary characters, not so much. Most of them were props designed to make Zane and Ariane strive to go someplace else. Dr. Jacobs was a cardboard bad guy. I never really got a feel for Rachel. Seen through both Ariane and Zane's eyes, she should have been fascinatingly complex, but instead she seemed more like a plot device. Ariane's father had a bit more depth, but not much. And I saw what Kade was trying to do with Jenna, but I don't think all the pieces came together quite right.
  • Overuse of parenthetical phrases: This is hypocritical of me, because I have the exact same problem. Even so, it bugged me a little. Kade uses a lot of parenthetical phrases, particularly in the beginning of the book.
All in all, I really enjoyed this. The science fiction aspects were far from ground-breaking, but, for me, the fabulousness of the romance aspects made up for that. I look forward to reading more of this series.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • The Strange Power (book) by L.J. Smith - Those who'd like more YA that mixes romance with superpowers and shadowy research facilities might want to try this. It's the first book in a trilogy. Those who prefer romance plus "underdog girl vs. mean girl who rules the school" may want to try Smith's The Secret Circle trilogy instead. That one has witches and magic, by the way.
  • The Pretender (live action TV series) - Every time The Rules had a flashback to or mention of Ariane's days at the research facility, I thought of this show. The main character, Jarod, is a Pretender, a person with the ability to pretend to be just about anyone (a doctor, a lawyer, a park ranger, etc.) in a very short period of time. Ever since he was a child, he was held captive in The Centre, a research facility where he was monitored 24/7. His primary goal was to escape and maybe figure out what happened to his parents. Okay, so this show stretched the bounds of believability more than a little bit, but I used to love it. Jarod was likable, and I enjoyed the drama between him and the people who were the closest thing he had to friends and family at The Centre.
  • I Am Number Four (book) by Pittacus Lore - Another YA book featuring aliens and romance. I haven't read this.
  • Blood and Chocolate (book) by Annette Curtis Klause - Vivian, the main character, is a werewolf and not a half alien, but, like Ariane, she has to do her best not to attract too much attention. Unfortunately, she falls for a human being who has no idea what she is. This worked somewhat better for me when I first read it in my teens than when I reread it as an adult. Those who like their YA romance mixed with tense supernatural aspects may want to give this a try. I've written about it.
  • Dark Angel (live action TV series) - Another show The Rules made me think of. The main character was a research subject who escaped. She was created in a lab, designed to be a super soldier, a mixture of human and animal DNA. I've written about the first season.
  • Roswell (live action TV series) - Again: romance, teen drama, aliens in hiding.
  • The Summoning (book) by Kelley Armstrong - No aliens, but this is the start of another YA series with supernatural abilities, a shadowy organization, and romance. I've written about it.

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