Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mock Printz: The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

Title: The Rules of Survival
Author: Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Dial
ISBN: 0803730012
Starred review in: Kirkus (07-15-06)
Review: Fear rules fourteen-year-old Matthew's life, and for good reason. He never knows when his mentally unstable (never labeled, but bipolar, or possibly borderline personality, but I'm not a doctor so don't take my word for it) mother, Nikki, is going to explode. At once, Nikki can be charming and affectionate, but she is also reckless, even suicidal, conniving, and manipulative. She endangers Matt and his sisters, Callie and Emmy, and most of Matt's life is dedicated to avoiding Nikki, placating her, or protecting his sisters from her. When Nikki begins dating Murdoch McIlvane, a man Matt has seen stop a potentially violent act, Matt thinks that Murdoch might be the key to getting away from Nikki. When all the adults in Matt's life seem to fail him, though, he knows that he has to stop Nikki on his own, somehow.

There are some books that defy reviews, that have to be experienced firsthand in order for the reader to see what's both on and beyond the page, and this is one of them. There is pathos here, and horror, and sympathy and anger. From Matt's unreliable narration, we know that Nikki is a danger to her children, but we can also see why no adults ever did anything about it (hence the reason why the book works so well in first-person and would have never worked in third). Nancy Werlin always writes cerebral, powerful books, and although this is not her usual adventure/mystery fare, it is every bit as good as, or better than, her previous books. This one is in my personal top 5.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

1 comment:

SusanRap said...

This book really impressed me. It is told from the perspective of the oldest teen boy in the family. He feels great responsibility for his two younger sisters. Their mom is destructive to both herselfand to her kids ( and everybody else who touches her life). How they learn to cope, survive and finally re-create a new family without their mom is a suspenseful, dramatic and touching story. Rules of Survival will be on my top ten as well...
Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library