The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I basically read this book in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down until I figured out what happened to these poor kids! Werlin's short chapters and simple writing make this book very accessible. Her ability to create suspense renders this book quite an emotional thriller. Plus, her characters are very well-rounded and real. Nobody's all good or all bad. The only exception I found to that was the mother character, who was portrayed as virtually all evil. I expected someone to discuss mental illness because it seemed to me like the mother suffered from bipolar disoder, maybe schizophrenia and ADHD going all the way back to her teenage years. She was always self-medicating. You could see her struggling for control. I felt a little bit sorry for her that no one ever (not that we saw) reached out to try to help her. She was just thought of as evil rather than ill. Maybe there are some people that are truly evil. I don't know. But mental illness is so often involved when people are like the mother in this book. Of course, reality is that mental illness is still taboo to talk about and beyond the understanding of many people so maybe that was a very realistic portrayal and I was supposed to feel a bit of empathy for the mother. Maybe Werlin is so crafty that I didn't even realize how brilliantly and realistically she was depicting this terrible situation. I'm not sure. Either way, The Rules of Survival is excellent.
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Julie Richie is a mother and writer who was inspired to write by the book Beat the Turtle Drum by Constance C. Greene when she was eleven years old.