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The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

The Rules of Survival (2006)

by Nancy Werlin

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Dear reader, if you are looking for a light and cheerful book then run away from this one. This story is harsh in its portrayal of a family living under the tyranny of a sick and violent mother. Hope and hopelessness alternately fill the heart of Matt who is writing the story of his family. At the outset we think he is writing the book for his younger sister Emmy in an attempt to explain the events that led to the unraveling of his already fractured family. But we discover that he is actually writing this story in order to better understand it himself. Nikki, the mother is cruel and hateful to her children, she is manipulative and promiscuous with men, she finds intense pleasure in the pain and discomfort of others, she is completely devoid of any redeeming qualities. Matt and his sister Callie have learned to “handle” her by being incredibly agreeable and docile as they attempt to protect themselves and their baby sister, Emmy. Enter Murdoch, a kind man who brings hope to the children. For a short while Nikki keeps company with Murdoch and life starts to take on some semblance of normalcy. But when Murdoch ultimately ends the relationship, Nikki begins a descent into madness which the children could scarcely have imagined. ( )
  knitwit2 | Aug 31, 2016 |
Matthew and his younger sisters Callie and Emmy have long been forced to band together for survival against Nikki, their beautiful but unpredictable and abusive mother. Hope for normalcy comes when Nikki begins dating Murdoch, a decent guy who likes and respects the kids. But Nikki's true colors show and Murdoch breaks off the relationship. Nikki becomes more unpredictable and dangerous and Matthew is desperate for Murdoch to help the kids because he cannot count on his dad or aunt to come through for them. A real psychological thriller with layers of story that lift away revealing still more suspense and mystery.
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  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Audiobook from public library
  TeachrBkMom | Aug 6, 2015 |
Another great audio book. I love using my time wisely. ( )
  whybehave2002 | Feb 4, 2015 |
From Sept 2006 SLJ:
Nancy Werlin’s latest novel tackles the topic of child abuse with grace and insight. Narrated by seventeen-year-old Matt as a letter to his youngest sister Emmy, The Rules of Survival is his effort to come to terms with the vicious treatment they suffered at the hands of Nikki, their beautiful and unpredictable mother. One of Matt’s early memories involves getting up during the night to sneak a cookie back to bed and being caught by his mother. Giggling and yelling “Cookie thief,” she holds a knife to his throat, cutting him just a little bit to teach him not to steal. As much as he fears his mother’s manic highs and lows, his greater concern as he grows older is for the safety of his sisters. He and his sister Callie shield Emmy as much as possible from Nikki’s volatile moods. Compounding the problem are the adults in their lives—their father and their aunt—who recognize Nikki’s instability but find it easier to look the other way. When Nikki’s ex-boyfriend Murdoch befriends the children, they want to believe that a more normal future is possible, but are afraid of being disappointed by an adult yet again. The story’s characters captivate readers from the beginning, and short, terse chapters move the plot along with an intensity that will appeal to seasoned Werlin fans and reluctant readers alike. As with Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson, 1999) and other recent novels that explore difficult issues, teens will empathize with these siblings and the secrets they keep. ( )
  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
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This book is for all the survivors. Always remember: The survivor gets to tell the story.
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Dear Emmy, As I write this, you are nine years old, too young to be told the full and true story of our family's past, let alone be exposed to my philosophizing about what it all meant.
"The events we lived through taught me to be sure of nothing about other people. They taught me to expect danger around every corner. They taught me to understand that there are people in this world who mean you harm. And sometimes, they're people who say they love you." Matthew to Emmy
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142410713, Paperback)

For Matt and his sisters, life with their cruel, vicious mother is a day-to-day struggle for survival. But then Matt witnesses Murdoch coming to a child?s rescue in a convenience store, and for the first time, he feels a glimmer of hope. When, amazingly, Murdoch begins dating Matt?s mother, life is suddenly almost good. But the relief lasts only a short time. When Murdoch inevitably breaks up with their mother, Matt knows he needs to take action. But can he call upon his hero? Or will he have to take measures into his own hands? A heart-wrenching portrait of a family in crisis, this is Nancy Werlin?s most compulsively readable novel yet.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:01 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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.

» see all 3 descriptions

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