Rules of Survival

The Rules of Survival
by Nancy Werlin
Realistic Fiction
* * * Stars (Pretty Good)

Matthew knows that something has to be done about his mother, Nikki. She’s vicious, unpredictable, abusive, and she’s constantly putting him and his sisters, Callie and Emmy, in danger. So, when he sees Murdoch – a man he doesn’t even know yet – standing up for another kid, he comes up with a plan. Maybe Murdoch will protect him and his sisters, too – if only he gets to know them.

Nikki’s behavior is scary – she’s obviously some kind of sociopath – and her kids are always on guard against her. There’s really nothing they can do to predict her behavior or how she’ll respond to what they say or do. It’s hard to watch Matthew and Callie struggle to make sense of it anyway – for Emmy’s sake – to try and protect her while she’s too little to understand how Things Are. It’s frustrating that the adults in this story are reluctant to become involved, to help (and that Social Services has such a bad reputation, that staying with Nikki is probably better than getting that agency involved). And even more frustrating that Nikki can pretend to be normal when it’s required – so no one is likely to believe any claims otherwise. How many kids, I wonder, are in similar situations? There are probably more instances where things don’t turn out so well for the kids involved. Good story, lots of suspense.

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Reviewed by YA Librarian