Battle Hall Davies of Empress of the World (Viking, 2001/VOYA August 2001) is back, moving from the summer-camp world to the realm of community theater before her freshman year at college in Portland, Oregon. Battle has left behind Nic, her first love, for her wayward brother, Nick, who ran away from home when she was thirteen. Their parents still believe that he is in New York City, but he has fashioned a life for himself in Forest House, with a hodgepodge of people whose common interest is acting. As Battle struggles to create a relationship with her brother, she also feels a sense of attraction to Meryl, a resident of the house. While the house members move toward their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Battle learns that in real life people have many personalities, just as the Athenian youth of the play. In this long-awaited continuation, readers learn more of Battle's story after her relationship with Nic at summer camp. Unfortunately the story lines do not develop completely in this book. Nick steals whatever he is able to, including food from others on their camping trip and the utility money for Forest House. Meryl, Battle's newest interest, is undecided about what she is looking for in a relationship. Battle's character is a bit more fleshed out here, but the reader never really feels connected to anyone else in this story. Readers might also be disappointed by the convenient endings of both the brother and the love-interest plots. Although this book will find an audience with readers who connected to the first book, those particularly excited to learn what happens next to Battle might be frustrated.
Battle Davies is headed to college. She has talked her parents into letting her go for the summer to get familiar with the area before classes start. What she doesn't tell them is that she will be living with the brother who ran away from home years earlier. Like most teenagers, Battle has a lot to learn. Her brother has changed from the guy always willing to let her tag along to a man who rarely puts the needs of others above his own. Battle is exploring her creative side and sexual tendencies. Between her part in A Midsummer Night's Dream and the daily drama of her roommates, Battle has to determine her role in her own life. The Rules for Hearts is an interesting look at coming of age. Reviewer: Diana Costello
It's hard to believe that Battle Davies is a fictional character. Ironically enough, that's not exactly a good thing. The first-person narrative of the summer before she begins college reads more like a memoir than a novel. The plot is episodic, relationships are realistically random and confusing and many characters' motivations are murky. Battle's brother Nick ran away from home at 17. Now she's staying in the communal house where he lives. The story meanders along as Battle develops a crush on a housemate, joins a theater troupe and tries to rebuild her relationship with her adored older brother. Unfortunately, Nick turns out to be decidedly unworthy of her devotion. Battle's clear-eyed assessment of him as he finally heads home, bailed out by their parents, bodes well for her growing maturity but may leave readers feeling disappointed and disillusioned. Still, fans of Empress of the World (2001) will welcome the chance to follow up with a familiar character, while those who first meet Battle here may be sufficiently intrigued to turn to Ryan's earlier work to learn more about her. (Fiction. YA)