Werlin, Nancy. 2006. The Rules Of Survival.
Okay, I admit it. This is the first Nancy Werlin book I’ve ever read. But it won’t be my last. Since reading The Rules of Survival a week or so ago, I’ve read Double Helix and Black Mirror.
The Rules of Survival is a powerful first person narrative of a young boy’s troubling life in an abusive home. As the oldest child, as the ‘man’ of the house, he felt responsible from an early age for the well being of his two younger sisters Callie and Emmy. Their mother was wild, unpredictable, emotionally unstable, verbally abusive, and sometimes physically abusive as well. Fear is something he knows inside and out. His life is ruled by fear.
Matthew’s Rules of Survival:
1) Sometimes, the people who mean you harm are the ones that say they love you.
2) Fear is your friend. When you feel it, act.
3) Protect the little ones.
4) If you coped before, you can cope now.
5) Always remember: In the end, the survivor gets to tell the story.
It is a story told retrospectively. Our narrator, Matthew, has aged from twelve or thirteen to the age of 18. As he’s preparing for college, he’s trying to sort out the last few years and make sense of everything that has happened. It’s a chronicle of his healing process.
Powerful. Emotional. Great writing.