Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Rules of Me is An Abstract Look at the Human Experience [Contributor: Megan Mann]

When you were a little kid, did you have an imaginary friend? I assume that I did, as I was an annoyingly theatrical child and loved making things up. The idea of an imaginary friend is as common as kids wanting to play in the sandbox or refusing naps. Usually it’s a phase and kids move on pretty quickly.

But what if they don’t? What if instead of moving on and finding real friends, they find it hard to do so and they’re now a teenager who still relies on their imaginary friend? What if that person was much more tangible than just an idea? What if they’re as real as you are, but no one else can see them besides you?

In Melanie Moyer’s The Rules of Me (yes, our Melanie Moyer) the idea of imaginary friends is not only challenged, but entirely flipped on its head. Gabe seems like a normal person. His best friend is Danny and they’ve been friends since she was young. But Gabe isn’t normal. He popped up one day in the sandbox and has stuck by Danny ever since — without knowing where he came from or if he actually counts as a real person if only Danny can actually see him.

He never really thought much about it, but he does keep lists. Gabe keep lists about what makes him a real person — he can speak and learn things — and what doesn’t... like the fact that he’s invisible to everyone else and can’t cry. Then when Danny gets to high school, things start to change. Danny begins to find other friends and not need him as much. He starts to question, really question, what life means for him and — if he just clutches her a little harder — would Danny let him stay forever?

When things go haywire in Danny’s life, the relationship also begins to unravel between the two long-term friends. She snaps at Gabe more, and he wanders off and leaves her alone. As things become harder for Danny to deal with, she relies on Gabe less and it starts to take a toll on him as well. Does that mean he can feel anger? That he can feel sadness? Does that make him real?

Gabe was as real as ever to Danny, but she’s the tether that kept him there. If she stops believing in him, what happens next?

The Rules of Me is a testament to friendship and challenges the ideas of what makes us human, even though we can feel our hearts beating. It’s a story about love in its many forms and how dealing with tragedy is different for everyone. It had drama, it had humor and — most of all — it had heart.

What I really loved about this book was not just that it was almost abstract, but that it’s different. Finding a book about an imaginary friend that isn’t in the picture book section is rare and for it to be good? That’s even harder to find. It was a story that made you think, gave you pause and made you wonder, “Am I real because I can cry or am I real because I know I can?”

I thought that, regardless of whether or not others can see Gabe, it was the story of two friends realizing that maybe they didn’t need each other as much as they thought they did and that sometimes drifting apart is inevitable. It’s as real as any friendship one might have in their lives and that’s what, I think, is the core of the story. Not whether or not Gabe is real, not that Danny blossoms and starts to figure out who she is. No, the core of the story is realizing that friendships shift and change shape and that we all have to figure out how to deal with that.

I really did enjoy this book. It had a lot going on, but you never felt overwhelmed by the story. It was different and sets itself apart. It was a great read by Melanie Moyer and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

The Rules of Me is available now!


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