The Rules of Survival is the story of three kids living with an unpredictable and abusive mother. Matt, the oldest of the three is leader and protector of his younger sisters. One day, he and his sister Callie meet Murdoch in a convenience store. They watch as Murdoch stops a father from beating his son in the store. In that moment, Matt and Callie don’t see a man, but a superhero who might save them from their mother.
Of course, heroes aren’t real and Murdoch is only a man. After a brief romance with their mother, Murdoch becomes a trusted friend of the kids. Matt turns to Murdoch, his biological father, Ben, and his aunt, Bobbie, for help. As the adults work through the legal system to save the children, Matt has to keep his sisters safe. His mother get increasingly dangerous…attacking Matt, putting a knife to his throat, driving them all into oncoming traffic and dangling Emmy over the ocean with a threat of dropping her into the churning waves. Can the legal system work fast enough, or will Matt have to resort to drastic measures?
The unique structure and point of view in this novel makes it refreshing to read. The story is written in the form of a letter from Matt to his little sister, Emmy. As the baby of the family, Emmy may not remember the story of their family well when she gets older. Matt wants to preserve their story and make sure Emmy will have the answers she needs when the time comes for her to seek them out.
There are many books out there about child abuse, but this one stands out with its easy prose, thoughtful insights and the fierce protectiveness that the siblings have for not only each other, but for their mother also. All of the relationships in this book are complex.
Overall, I give The Rules of Survival…
Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Moral Lessons – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Hunter Parrish (Matt), Kelsey Batelaan (Callie), Destiny Whitlock (Emmy), Sienna Miller (Mother, Nikki), Heath Ledger (Murdock)