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Title: Rules for Hearts
Author: Sara Ryan

By Samantha Sumampong, 17, Bishop Alemnay HS (2007 graduate)
The Rules for Hearts by Sara Ryan, is a story about family secrets, redemption and the journey of discovery. Battle Davis Hall is an introverted 18-year-old lesbian who during her summer stay in Oregon discovers that the person she trusted most is not who he seems and that constantly trying to make people happy will not always make you happy.

The story begins with a prologue set in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, five years earlier. Battle is 13 and her older brother Nick is teaching her how to play the card game hearts. Three weeks later he runs away on his 17th birthday.

What I like most about the novel is how Battle overcomes her obstacles. Battle’s journey includes re-connecting with her brother, dealing with an indecisive flame who doesn’t know if she wants to be in a relationship or not, and moving into a house full of eccentrics for the summer. It is through these experiences that Battle finds out the secret about her brother and who she truly is.

Her charismatic brother Nick has a magnetic charm that lets him get away with anything. When Battle sees him steal something small from a mansion they’re visiting, she is conflicted over whether to confront him or keep her mouth shut. He let her down because she realizes that his charm could be used for good or bad, but she often saw her brother use his charm for bad.

At the same time, Battle is dealing with her iffy relationship with Meryl, a seductive brunette who plays with Battle’s heart and mind. There is a moment where Battle kisses Meryl in her truck. They make out, but then Meryl tells Battle they can’t be involved because Meryl is older than her and they live in the same house. Although I’m not a lesbian, I can identify with their relationship because I was in a similar position as Meryl in which my indecisiveness hurt someone I cared about. It was interesting relating to a character who has questionable morals.

The only problem with the novel is that I wish it had been introduced earlier that her brother knew about her sexuality. Before Battle tells the reader her brother knows she is gay, I assumed he had no idea that she was a lesbian. As I was reading, I thought Battle was ashamed of her sexuality and that’s why she would not tell her brother.

There are many lessons to be learned from Battle’s mistakes. The book shows that sometimes the people we care about let us down.

I liked the novel because it showed that people have to conquer their demons to find their true selves. Battle had to confront her brother and herself to figure out that facing her problems will set her free instead of pretending
that everything is all right.

Title: The Freedom Writers Diary
Authors: The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell

By Deshon Woodson, 17, Hollywood HS

The Freedom Writers Diary is a true story about kids with tough lives who went to Wilson High in Long Beach. What made it so interesting is that I never knew that other kids went through hard times like I did.

The book starts with their freshman year and covers four years of high school. All the kids wrote the chapters, which are from their own journals. Their teacher, Ms. Gruwell, starts off the book saying she’s a new teacher and she’s confident that her students are going to make it in school and in life. But in the next diary entry, a student says that Ms. Gruwell doesn’t know anything about them, “a group of helpless ‘sure to drop out’ kids from the ‘hood.”

But the students start to like Ms. Gruwell because she shows them that she wants to see where they are coming from. One day she tells them she is giving them journals to write about their problems. She says they can keep their journals in a closet, which would be locked to keep them private. The next day she opens the closet and journals from all 60 students were there.

Another time Ms. Gruwell put tape on the ground and said to the students, “I’m going to ask you questions and if the answer is yes, step on the tape.” “Do you have issues in your house?” All stood on the line. “Do you have friends or family members who’ve died?” All stood on the line.

The book has its sad moments. I cried when one of the kids wrote about how when he was younger, his friend accidentally shot himself in front of him. But I also cried tears of happiness, like when the class went to Washington, D.C., to visit the Lincoln Memorial for a field trip, which was their first time out of Long Beach. It was telling me that we all have somebody in our lives who cares about us and is not going to give up on us.

I was so excited reading this book because the teacher has an impact on the kids’ lives. They all stuck through school and graduated, and got away from the gangs in their neighborhood. I felt I could turn my life around, too.

This book shows what other people go through. Read it to see how they feel.