Twelve-year-old Maggie moves from Atlanta to Vermont.
Her long-estranged father left her his family farm after his unexpected death, with the stipulation that she must live there for a year. Maggie’s stepfather and mother are already divorcing, since he’s come out, and Maggie’s appearance-oriented Southern-belle mother is glad they have a fresh start, even if it’s in the country. In Vermont Maggie learns that the father she barely knew was an artist and a local hero; she’s befriended by the Parkers, a large, multiracial family headed by two moms, who were especially close to him. (Maggie and her mother are white.) Over a span of six months, Maggie learns to love Vermont and treasure memories of her father. Steveson’s writing is lucid and smooth, and Maggie and the Parkers are appealing characters, but the novel suffers from the same issue as the author’s first, Swing Sideways (2016): most of the plot elements rely on character inconsistencies and obfuscations. Vermont is well-evoked, but Georgia isn’t: the “Georgia rules” of the title seem mostly to consist of saying “Ma’am” and “Sir.” And while Maggie’s relationship with her biological father is well-drawn from a patchwork of memory and objects, her relationship with her stepfather, with whom she lived for seven years, is nonexistent, relegating him to yet another plot device.
When Steveson’s stories can match her descriptions, she’ll be terrific; this one doesn’t hit that mark. (Fiction. 8-12)