About the Book

Title: The Rules (Project Paper Doll #1)
Published: 2013
Series: Project Paper Doll
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Bionic Big Face
BFF Charm: HECK YES and Yay!
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factor: Aliens, Mysterious Loner Lady, Fathers
Relationship Status: Just What I Was Looking For

Cover Story: Bionic Big Face

Oof, big face strikes again. At least it conveys something about the protag, i.e. she’s more than meets the eye! I’ll shut up now.

The Deal:

Ariane Tucker is just your everyday teenager… if your everyday teenager is an escaped government genetics project with extraterrestrial DNA. In the ten years since, she abides by a set of rules to keep her hidden in plain sight:

  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.

When an incident at school compromises her identity, Ariane seeks out the help of popular kid Zane Bradshaw. But their newfound alliance contradicts everything that the rules teach, and the risks may be greater than she could ever imagine.

BFF Charm: HECK YES and Yay!

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Oh, Ariane. Human or not, no one deserves what you’ve been put through. Your early years in captivity break my heart, but your resiliency amazes me! You may think you’re a freak because of your heritage, but TRUST — your heightened insecurity just makes you more like a ‘normal’ teenager, not less. I really enjoyed seeing the world through your eyes, with your battling logical and emotional instincts, plus your wry sense of humour. And I wholeheartedly agree that us humans can be such a strange bunch.

Yay BFF Charm

And ZANE! From the moment I met you, you were fighting an uphill battle with that One Direction name. But YOU WON, if the prize was MY HEART. For someone who appears to have it all, you’ve been through a lot of heartache — but you never use that as an excuse to be a douchecanoe. You’re starting to see your so-called friends for who they really are, and you’re trying to be a better version of yourself too.

Normally I’d steal this kind of guy for myself, but Ariane and Zane are just SO CUTE together! (Plus: I could never do that to her!) He’s unintimidated by how cool and kickass she is; in fact, that only makes him like her MORE. Which is SUPER HOT. The only reason Ariane gets a more emphatic yay than Zane is because she needs a BFF more than he does.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

I had a difficult time separating the talky talk from the swoon, because the talky talk IS the swoon. The banter deserves to be its own bonus factor, but there’s already too much good stuff for me to gush over. But I will say this: SCHOOL CARNIVAL. Read it, come back, then OMG LET’S SQUEE TOO CUTE!

(Actually, I can’t not talk about this next part. It’s only slightly spoiler-y, but I don’t want to deprive you of discovering it on your own.)

As I’ve mentioned, Ariane and Zane totally bring the adorbs. It takes a little while to get there, but their relationship develops in a natural, believable way (i.e. no instalove here!). And the payoff comes from such a deep, caring, loving place; those butterflies in the tummy have been EARNED, y’all.

AHEM. In short, I wish nothing but sunshine whisker kittens for these two, because TOO CUTE.

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said

Stacey Kade’s gotta be on the Mount Rushmore of alternating guy/girl perspectives, right? I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to (what I remember of)* The Ghost and the Goth, which shares a similar format. But this lady is so pro at what she does that there’s no mistaking Ariane and Zane for Alona and Will. Even though both series are technically life-and-death, the stakes just seem higher in The Rules, and the more serious tone reflects that. Not that there isn’t any fun to be had; it’s just more subdued than Kade’s previous series.

*Not because it wasn’t memorable, but because I am that forgetful.

Bonus Factor: Aliens

A UFO hovering over people with lightning in the sky

I was already sold on this book because of Stacey Kade, but I had to fist pump à la Steve Holt when I realized that Ariane is an alien! ‘Cause aliens are def. on my milk carton. I don’t know why there aren’t more aliens in YA* (and it better not be because it’s more of a boy genre, groan). Not to go Mulder on y’all, but I find extraterrestrial life in any of 100 billion galaxies more plausible than blood drinkers with sunlight allergies or jort wearers that undergo lunar-induced transmogrifications.

*I mean, the only other YA alien I could think of was whatever the mess I Am Number Four is.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Lady

Katniss and Peeta from the Hunger Games film

Since Ariane’s got the shady government organization GTX after her, girlfriend’s got nothing but secrets. But it’s only when she starts keeping them to protect the people around her (which usually bugs, but works here since GTX really seems that menacing) that I realized she’s a total mysterious loner chick! I enjoy a good MLD as much as anyone, but this gender role reversal is so refreshing.

Bonus Factor: Fathers

Alia's Sydney Bristow walking away from her father Jack

This book is full of fathers and dads, good and bad. Mark Tucker risks everything to protect a mistreated child that he rescued from his employers at GTX, yet he still distances himself from loving Ariane like an actual daughter even after ten years together. Jay Bradshaw is the parent that stayed, but keeping up appearances as Wingate Police Chief is more important than Zane’s well-being. (There’s also Dr. Jacobs, the grandfather of Ariane’s high school nemesis and also lead scientist at GTX. The less I say about him, the better; I’ll let you discover how insidious he is on your own.) These are some complex father-child relationships that Kade has chosen to explore, and I’m so glad that she did.

Relationship Status: Just What I Was Looking For

I got involved with this book only because I recognized its family name, so I was pleasantly surprised to find what I knew I wanted (aliens!). But this book is so much more than just that; it gave me what I didn’t even know I needed (basically everything else). I’m even bending my no-series(-unless-too-awesome-to-pass) policy for it. So yeah, this could be love.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Disney Book Group. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). The Rules will be available April 23.


Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.