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The Rules of Survival

The Rules of Survival is a YA contemporary novel by Nancy Werlin.

A life of tension and walking on eggshells is all Matt and his younger sisters are used to as their daily lives dramatically shift with their mother’s violent, startling mood swings.

As the oldest, Matt has learned to attempt to pull the attention on him when their mother turns more erratically aggressive, but it does not always work. Sometimes Callie or the little one Emmy end up being the victims – either when he’s not there to stop her… or when she’s too determined to be distracted.

It’s a life of fear and survival – every second of every day.

When Matt sees a man named Murdoch protect a young child from an abusive father in a public place, a part of him soars with a hope he long thought was dead.

Could this man – this man that had the courage to stand up to that steely-eyed father – help them too?

Matt knows it’s time to take action…

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Nancy Werlin novel but my prior experiences have been very positive. I’ve read The Killer’s Cousin, Locked Inside, Black Mirror and Double Helix – all of which were amazing, as I recall.

The Rules of Survival was no exception.

In fact, it was much more than that.

This is a harrowing, disturbing, edgy depiction of children in a state of constant trepidation with a mother frighteningly unstable and downright terrifying. The portrayal is never over the top and the narration, which is of Matt telling his youngest sister Emmy about this time of their lives via a written letter, feels very, very real.

With how tired and busy I am after working hard all week, it’s been a while since I’ve read an entire book in one sitting. But that’s what happened with The Rules of Survival – I devoured the whole thing, which is admittedly only 250 pages – in one Saturday afternoon.

Why? Because it is horrifying, gripping, nerve-wracking and impossible to put down due to the investment in these poor children – and the need to know what is going to happen.

By the end I was wowed by how enormously, powerfully touching and memorable The Rules of Survival was.

Strongly, strongly recommended.

My interest in Nancy Werlin has been reignited, no doubt.

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