Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Rules of Survival, by Nancy Wherlin

Matt and Callie sneak out of the house one hot summer night in order to enjoy the air conditioning of the supermarket and get a couple popsicles. Little sister Emmy is already asleep and their mom is out on a date. Her dates can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, so Matt thinks it'll be ok. Standing in line to pay Matt and Callie witness a scene that is not unfamiliar to them. A dad is berating his kid at the top of his lungs. Matt and Callie are frozen on the spot and are amazed when a fellow customer intervenes. After the altercation is over, the man and his date leave. All Matt knows is that the man's name is Murdoch. And Matt knows he needs to find him. Southie isn't that big after all.

If Murdoch helped some random kid, surely he will help Matt and his sisters. Won't he?

In a series of events that should be unbelievable, a year later Murdoch becomes Matt's mom's boyfriend. At first everything is great. The kids are invited on virtually all the dates, their mom is in a good mood, and life seems to be changing. But then mom's true colours come through. Murdoch leaves. And things get much worse.

This novel started off hammering me over the head with abuse, but as Wherlin went on I really found myself wanting to know what happened. Matt's character, and those of his sisters really came to life for me. His mother is absolutely despicable, and as a mother she made me sad and mad at the same time.

This would be a good read for fans of E.R. Frank and even Adam Rapp (22 Snowfish).

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