The Rules of Us

Random/Labyrinth Road. May 2023. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593484890.
Gr 9 Up–Long-term couple Jillian and Henry have a carefully crafted plan: get the scholarship of their dreams so they can go to the school of their dreams and study video game design. Their plan doesn’t include them unexpectedly coming out to each other on prom night at the end of their junior year. What follows is a spectacularly messy untangling from their completely codependent lives. Henry is ready for a life separate from Jillian before she is, leading to hurt feelings and jealousy that threaten their chance of finding a way to remain friends. Her long-simmering crush on her crew teammate, Carla, might be just the thing she needs to be able to move forward. Unfortunately, the story often strains credulity. For example, their singular focus on a singular scholarship when there are many other scholarship options is explained away in a quick sentence toward the end of the book, which is dissatisfying and doesn’t match with what we know about Jillian and Henry’s meticulous planning up to that point. The characters also lack consistency, which makes some of their choices seem sudden and confusing, especially Jillian’s exploration of her queer identity and feelings for Henry and new love interest Carla. Henry and his new love interest are Korean American. Jillian is white. Many secondary characters have a variety of cued racial and gender identities.
VERDICT There are better messy coming out books, like Leah Johnson's You Should See Me in a Crown or Brandy Colbert's Little & Lion. A secondary purchase.

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