The Rules of Survival Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Rules of Survival

A teenage boy struggles to keep himself and his sisters alive under the care of their abusive mother. Matthew is only a young teenager, but he is responsible for keeping himself and his siblings alive while they're living under the roof of their mentally unstable and abusive mother, Nikki. As the book opens, Matt is starting to lose hope that he and his sisters will ever escape Nikki, but then he witnesses a total stranger save a random child from a beating in a grocery store. Matt makes it his sole mission to find that stranger, but is spared the search when Nikki brings the man home, as her new boyfriend. Now that the stranger is "part of the family" Matt hopes that he will see how crazy Nikki is and want to save Matt and his sisters like he saved the kid in the grocery store. Matt's heroic fantasies come screeching to a halt when the man breaks up with Nikki. Frantic, and more out of time than ever, Matt searches the city for the man, and is again spared the effort by Nikki, who has taken to stalking her former boyfriend. Nikki, enraged over the breakup, starts becoming aggressive; she starts breaking the man's car windows, and sending hit men over to his house. When not trying to exact revenge Nikki becomes even more volatile at home, causing Matt and his sisters to once more fear for their life. Matt is running out of adults to turn to when his mother's sister--his aunt Bobbie--finally steps into the picture. Unbeknownst to Matt, Bobbie has been working with Nikki's ex to find a safe place for Matt and his sisters to live, and a way to keep Nikki away from them.
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Best part of story, including ending: I really like that it was kind of an epistolary novel; the whole book is a letter from Matt to his youngest sister, so that she remembers what their mother was like and why they don't live with her.

Best scene in story: There is a scene where Nikki and her new boyfriend take Matt and his sisters to the beach, and it's my favorite because it's where Nikki's fašade finally cracks; up until that point, she'd been trying really hard not to abuse her kids in front of her new boyfriend. It's in this scene where he finally sees how dangerous Nikki is to herself and those around her.

Opinion about the main character: What I like most about Matt is his love for his sisters. He is willing to do absolutely anything to keep them safe, even kill someone. And to exhibit that kind of love as a teenager is just so rare that it make him unique.

The review of this Book prepared by Victoria Lurie a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Rules of Survival

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh) Time/era of story    -   1980's-1999 Kids growing up/acting up?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Age group of kid(s) in story:    -   high school Parents/lack of parents problem?    -   fighting with bitchy momma

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Age:    -   a kid Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   7 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Nancy Werlin Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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