Rules of Survival
by Werlin, Nancy






Seventeen-year-old Matthew recounts his attempts, starting at a young age, to free himself and his sisters from the grip of their emotionally and physically abusive mother.





Nancy Werlin was born and raised in Peabody, Massachusetts, USA and now lives near Boston. She received her bachelor's degree in English from Yale.

Since then, she has worked as a technical writer and editor for several computer software and Internet companies, while also writing fiction. She is a National Book Award finalist.





/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 7-10. Living with an unpredictable, psychotic mother has taught Matthew how to survive. Constantly on alert, he and his sister, Callie, devotedly shelter their younger stepsister, Emmy, from their mother's abuse and worry about staying safe. Matt insists that "fear isn't actually a bad thing . . . . It warns you to pay attention, because you're in danger. It tells you to do something, to act, to save yourself," but his terror is palpable in this haunting, powerful portrayal of domestic dysfunction, which is written in retrospect as a letter from Matt to Emmy. Unfortunately, the adults in the children's life, a distant father and an apathetic aunt, don't help, though Matt sees a spark of hope in Murdoch, who dates his mother, Nikki, and then leaves when he becomes another target for her escalating rage. It is Murdoch, with a violent past of his own, who is willing to risk getting involved and eventually becomes the change agent that the children so desperately need. The author of Double Helix (2003),Werlin reinforces her reputation as a master of the YA thriller, pulling off a brilliant departure in this dark but hopeful tale, with pacing and suspense guaranteed to leave readers breathlessly turning the pages. ((Reviewed August 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.





In this heartbreaking tale of abuse and love, 14-year-old Matthew rescues himself and his younger sisters from a dangerously unstable mother. Nikki's abusive behavior would be hard for a police officer or social worker to identify. She doesn't beat them (much) or sexually molest them. Instead, the children survive manic behavior, mood swings, reckless endangerment and constant, unremitting fear. No benevolent adults can rescue the children: Matthew's absent father loves his children but not as much as he fears his crazy ex-wife; Aunt Bobbie closes her eyes to the violence and psychological abuse she knows occurs; and social services, Matthew knows, are utterly useless. As Nikki's mental problems descend further into dangerous psychosis, Matthew looks for a rescuer. Though he thinks he's found a fairy godfather in protective neighbor Murdoch, the instigation to push the adults into doing the right thing comes from Matthew himself. Beautifully framed as a letter from Matthew to his younger sister, the suspense is paced to keep Matthew's survival and personal revelations chock-full of dramatic tension. Bring tissues. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.






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