Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Rules of Survival Posted by Mrs. Schauer

THE RULES OF SURVIVAL, by Nancy Werlin (2006)
AR Level: 4.3 Points: 8

Interest Level: Upper Grades
Audiobook Available in HS Library

This is a truly powerful book. It opens with a letter from Matthew to Emmy, his baby sister. He tells her that he’s going to write down the details of their childhood to help her understand what they went through at the hands of their abusive mother, Nikki. The book chronicles the experiences of Matthew and his two younger sisters, Callie and Emmy as they try to deal with the emotional and sometimes drug-fueled mood swings of their mom. She swings like a pendulum from manic highs to depressive lows—and in all of her moods; her kids are the ones who suffer. The book climaxes when, after losing custody, their mom kidnaps Emmy and takes her to a trailer in the Boston dockyard. Matthew rescues her with the help of Murdoch, who is an ex-boyfriend of Nikki’s. The book ends with another letter to Emmy, in which Matthew tells her he realizes that he actually wrote the book for himself, to figure out who he was, and what his experiences with Nikki had done to him.


  1. Thanks for posting your commentary on RULES OF SURVIVAL, Mrs. Schauer. This was such a hard book for me to write, and while I wrote I sometimes wondered if anybody would want to read it at all. I'm glad it is finding readers who care about Matthew and Callie and Emmy, the way that I do.

    Nancy Werlin

  2. It was easier to read this book knowing that they survived. I had a hard time balancing my feelings between an adult's point of view and a child's. As I read further into the book it became clear that Matthew very much dealing with that issue. There are subtleties in his narrative that reveal how childlike he was thinking. Then you see a contrast of complexity in Murdoch. And the whole time you watch him mature.

    It was very well written. Each character is flawed and lovable.