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The Rules of survival- nancy werlin
stephanie
Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013 2:52 PM
Joined: 1/14/2013
Posts: 15


Matt and his sisters, Callie and Emmy, are always starring in a play directed by fear. Just one small wrong move can set their mother Nikki off, and lead to the most dangerous of circumstances. She has no qualms about leaving her young family to fend for themselves most nights in South Boston, and that's the best case scenario. When Nikki chooses to lavish her presence upon her three children, they can almost count on terrors like finding a kitchen knife pressed to their throats, being beaten with a bag of seafood, or even taking a terrifying detour into oncoming traffic if they can't placate their mercurial mother. Despite having a father who is still involved in their lives in small ways and an aunt who lives in the downstairs apartment, nobody steps in to protect Matt, Callie, and Emmy until a stranger named Murdoch McIlvane enters their lives one unexpected night at the Cumberland Farms store. It is then that Matt begins to dream that things won't be like this forever, that he begins to believe that life could be more than living in fear of his mother.

Matt, the eldest at fifteen, is the story's narrator, and a good one at that. Matt knows what it is to live in fear and to want to escape, but he knows he can't leave without his two sisters who he will protect at any cost. Despite the odds, though, Matt still hasn't given up hope that their dangerous circumstances could change, that their father could man up even though he's almost as terrified of unstable Nikki as the kids are or that Aunt Bobbie could step in when she hears the commotion upstairs. It's this outside hope and other reasons that even Matt can't give voice to, that he searches for an ally in Murdoch, and finds one. Matt, with all his hopes and the fear that encroaches upon them, is the perfect window into the lives of abused kids. Werlin uses his narration to great effect, giving us a sense of just how easily and random it was to attract Nikki's senseless rage and how it's lurking at the edge of even the most trivial encounter.

The Rules of Survival is a page-turner of a book that will catch readers up in its twists and turns. It's a frighteningly realistic portrayal of abuse, how easy it is for kids to be trapped by it when adults that should care do nothing. Matt, Callie, and Emmy's story is ultimately one of change and of redemption, but it's one that makes you wonder and worry all the kids for whom it's not

 


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