In Corinne Manning’s stunning debut story collection, a cast of queer characters explore the choice of assimilation over rebellion. Spanning the years 1992 to 2019, and moving from New York to North Carolina to Seattle, the eleven first-person stories in We Had No Rules feature characters who feel the promise of a radically reimagined world but face complicity instead.
...[a] fabulously and unflinchingly queer debut story collection ... Manning’s characters are as gorgeous and various as the community of which they are part, representing different identities, sexualities and experiences of queerness ... In this way, We Had No Rules both engages with and moves beyond the narrative constrictions of what we think 'queer fiction' should be, instead pushing toward a limitless vision of queer storytelling that will capture readers with its vivacity ... In their sharp, surprising stories, Manning displays a willingness to defy expectations and take the reader to uncomfortable places ... Today’s readers will find the frank discussion of sex, money, relationships, and fluidity not just refreshing but deeply necessary. We need stories like these—stories that are willing to take risks, ask difficult questions, and reflect both our ugliest and most beautiful moments ... To that end, We Had No Rules does a remarkable job of representing a pretty broad swath of queer experiences and communities. It does, however, fail to explore race and ethnicity at any depth, and this is one area where the collection could have proven to be more expansive. In all other respects, We Had No Rules is an intimate, rebellious and often hilarious exploration of queer life in the U.S. in the 21st Century.
...if all coming-of-age stories boasted as much humor and humanity as the collection’s titular story packs into its 16 pages, I would never have grown tired of the form. Note to all fledgling authors: Take a page out of Corinne Manning’s book. Please ... The collection is equal parts humor, heartache, and education as Manning unpacks often-unseen narratives that have, nonetheless, existed in the margins for some time ... Manning’s eye for character is matched only by her clear prose, which almost seems to crackle with electricity. 'I felt alive in the same way I had the first time I had sober sex,' Manning writes. Each story in We Had No Rules is distinct, and every sentence is a joy to read.
It's...full of strong narratives ... Manning deftly plays with the idea of rules, and the idea of queerness, weaving a neon cat’s cradle of complex characters whose questions and desires push on the constraints and freedoms of both ... The 'gay aunt' and 'gay uncle' are fixtures in pop culture and family narratives. But these categories, like all categories, flatten people. Manning actively writes their characters into three dimensions.