Project Paper Doll #1
Young Adult/Light Sci Fi
Available April 23rd
Received from publisher via NetGalley for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
1. Never trust anyone.
2. Remember they are always searching.
3. Don’t get involved.
4. Keep your head down.
5. Don’t fall in love.
Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival—and that of her adoptive father—depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.”
But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening—and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules…
The Rules is an outstanding beginning to this new series, delighting us with smart, layered characters who keep us up reading late into the night because we can’t bear to walk away without knowing what facet of them the next chapter will reveal. Though the story itself is intriguing and well-executed, it’s the characters that truly make this book shine, both Ariane and Zane individuals who are hiding in plain sight, wearing masks of insignificance and popularity respectively to cover the fear and loneliness underneath. While we feel utterly connected to both of them from the onset, it’s clear to us with every page that there will always be more about each of them we want to learn, and more time with the two of them together we want to spend.
On the surface, The Rules has a Carrie-esque vibe, with Ariane’s traumatic past fueling her desire to protect the weak from their tormenters and an epically awful group of popular kids seeking to humiliate those who dare cross them through increasingly mortifying pranks. It’s Ariane herself that keeps the similarities strictly superficial though, as she is not one to fall for the pretty falsities that tumble from a serpent’s tongue. She’s incredibly self-aware and highly intelligent, her quick wit repeatedly stunning both Zane and mean girl Rachel into silence, and we find ourselves always smiling, knowing she’s on the offensive even when those targeting her believe her to be on the defensive.
Given this story is told from alternating points of view, we get to spend as much time in Zane’s head as we do Ariane’s, something that allows us to warm to him far faster than we would if we only saw him through her eyes. As a member of the “in-crowd” who has always simply drifted along in Rachel’s wake without any desire or motivation to make waves of his own, Zane is someone it would have been hard for us to really like as a romantic interest for quiet-but-spirited Ariane, but luckily our time with him shows us a boy who bears as many emotional scars as she does. He has a sense of humor to match Ariane’s, each page revealing his sweetness and charm, but it doesn’t take long before both we and Ariane are able to see through the bravado, and it’s nothing short of beautiful to watch as each of them accepts in the other the traits and flaws they like least in themselves.
The Rules is a first installment that’s over entirely too quickly despite its not-insignificant length, a frown contorting our faces unbidden when we reach the last page and realize our time with Ariane and Zane is temporarily at an end. We’re left with the future wide open for our two young protagonists, but instead of feeling incomplete we are nicely satisfied, wishing only that we were gifted with an ability to manipulate time so that we might speed through the months and suddenly find ourselves on the release day for book two.
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