The Rules of Survival

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin.

I started hearing about this book much earlier in the year from people who read the ARC.  I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  Some books dont’ live up to the high expectations, but this one does.  I would rate it one of the best of the year, if not the best. 

Matthew has rules to survive living with his mother.  He pretends to be grateful and loving when she is in a good mood, never crosses her in a bad mood, and protects his two younger siblings from her as best he can.  His mother is a violent promiscuous drug user who struggles with her own demons.  Matthew is trapped because he can never leave his sisters behind with her.  But then Matthew finds a man in a quick mart who stands up to an abusive father and realizes that this man, Murdoch may be able to help them.  As Matthew starts to try to find Murdoch, his mother finds out and begins her own relationship with Murdoch that will drag him into the family’s drama. 

This novel is about abuse, bravery, duty, and strength.  It is about living in fear as both a child and an adult.  It is about adults who can suddenly choose to be involved and in doing so can save children.  It is powerful, amazing, and breathtaking.  Werlin’s prose is raw, troubled, honest and angry, speaking directly from the gut.  Matthew is a complex character as are his younger sisters and each reacts to the abuse by their mother in a different and complicated way.  Adding power to the story, Nikki, the mother, is also not stereotypical, but demonstrates how abuse can be more than physical.  She is a frightening, horrid character, but readers will glimpse her humanity as well, which is a truly remarkable feat of authorship. 

This book calls out to be booktalked and will fly off the shelves.  It has a strong cover and can be recommended to all of the teens who enjoy A Child Called It.  It has a strong crossover appeal for adults and would make a great book discussion title for teen/parent book discussions.  This one is my top choice of the year so far.