The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  259

RAC Book:  Yes

Matthew writes a letter to his younger sister, Emmy, about what life was like with their physically and emotionally abusive mother.  Matthew wants Emmy to understand why he and their sister Callie ended up looking for ways to leave their mother.  He recounts how he and Callie constantly tried to protect Emmy from their mother’s outbursts and mood swings and how certain incidents escalated to physical danger and neglect at times.

In many ways this letter was meant to help Matthew understand what happened in his childhood as well.  He is not even sure he will ever give it to Emmy, but he wants to have a clear account of the home they left behind just in case Emmy ever expresses confusion about leaving her biological mother.  Simply by writing it, Matthew forgives himself for some of the measures he took to ensure their safety and for some of the people who were hurt along the way.

Students who found A Child Called It interesting will also want to read this story.  Since there is more emotional than physical abuse, they worry about trying to leave home because they fear they will get split up or immediately returned to their abusive and unpredictable mother.  A realistic portrayal of life with someone who has mental issues.

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8 Responses to “The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin”


  1. 1 Ash O'leary September 19, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    This is such a great book! It is nearly as truth speaking as “A Child Called IT” but is fictional. Truely a great story for young adults, teaching them about the reality of the world…

  2. 2 hannah May 21, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    this book was realy touching and well writen

  3. 3 Zorro December 8, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    It has so much to teach the young generations, of which i am a member. I love it and the characters, and it makes me happy to know that even though some of us can’t escape the strange mothers in this world, Matt and his sisters were strong enough to break away. It’s really a touching story of love and survival.

  4. 4 elizabeth sluder December 11, 2009 at 3:16 am

    an awesome book! I’m not much of a book reader, but wow… Im just speechless :) great great book!!! Everyone should read it!

  5. 5 Alana April 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    This book was amazing.I think everyone should read this book. Nancy Werlin is an amzing authour.

  6. 6 Anderson November 8, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    a very great book

  7. 7 Haley August 17, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    it was great!!!!!

  8. 8 Kyndall October 8, 2012 at 12:26 am

    Are there any similes or personifications?


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