Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Rules of Survival” as Want to Read:
The Rules of Survival
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Rules of Survival

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  9,574 ratings  ·  888 reviews
This National Book Award Finalist is a thought-provoking exploration of emotional abuse, self-reliance and the nature of evil. A heart-wrenching portrait of family crisis, this is perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.

For Matt and his sisters, life with their cruel, physically abusive mother is a day-to-day struggle for su
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 7th 2006 by Dial Books
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Rules of Survival, please sign up.

Recent Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThirteen Reasons Why by Jay AsherThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyLooking for Alaska by John GreenSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Best Teen Books About Real Problems
83rd out of 2,094 books — 11,169 voters
Shiver by Maggie StiefvaterHush, Hush by Becca FitzpatrickSpeak by Laurie Halse AndersonCity of Bones by Cassandra ClareEvermore by Alyson Noel
YA Novels by Goodreads Authors
60th out of 1,490 books — 2,741 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This book was so well written that I didn't notice how disturbing it was until after I finished. I would call it haunting and beautiful. I kept reading well into the night.
Nancy Werlin has written a classic.
Apr 11, 2007 Jan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mystery and suspense fans
Shelves: teenbooks
I devoured this book in practically one sitting. I loved the taut suspense of this story--a story that will resonate with many teens who must deal with abusive parents. Matthew is faced with protecting his sisters from his unpredictable and often violent mother (who likely is afflicted with manic depressive disorder). Often he must bear the burden of her rage himself in order to to deflect it from the most vulnerable member of his family--his youngest sister, Emmy. The book is written from Matth ...more
This ended up being a pretty personal review for me, so if you don’t want to read through my melodramatic reminiscing…I suggest you (ie, the three of you that read my reviews) skip this one!

It will be absolutely impossible for me to rate this book objectively. Did I like this book? Not just no, but hell no. However, I recognize that this dislike is influenced heavily by my own personal experience. I over-identified with the beginn
"The Rules of Survival" is about Matthew Walsh who lives with his two younger sisters and their abusive mother. He retells his story through a letter that he intends to give to his youngest sister Emmy, who was too young to understand the events that went on when Nikki abused them and put them through more than just their fair share of pain.

This was such a good novel, I read it in only two days (both school days), so you can tell how addicted I was to reading it. I seriously felt Matt's pain and
Feb 28, 2008 Dave rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: family or friends of mental patients, teens.
Shelves: fiction-read
My youngest daughter picked this book up on CD at our library. It's a first person narrative in the form of a letter from an older brother to his youngest sister recounting a troubling and turbulent period when the two of them, and another sister, between them in age, were living with their mentally ill mother. The story held my attention with its taut dark psychological tension. Since I have close relatives and friends with significant mental health problems, I found the events and behavior des ...more
May 30, 2007 Susan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: YAs
Shelves: ya
Swift, interesting read and a fairly successful epistolary novel. Predictable plot of abusive parent, kids trying to find their own way, but likeable characters and a nice examination of what it means to be a hero.
Full Disclosure: Nancy is a good friend.

This is one of the best portrayals of a teen living with an emotionally abusive parent you will ever read. I had a knot in my stomach the whole book.
"Always remember: In the end, the survivor gets to tell the story."

This is the story of Matt, Callie, and Emmy, written as a letter. Emmy was too young to fully understand her past and so Matt has taken it as his responsibility to tell her about it. It's not only about an abusive mother but it involves outsiders who were dragged into it.

What did I think of the characters?
WOW. This is one of the best character developments I have read. It didn't just occur suddenly but over a realistic period of
Sep 06, 2008 Kathryn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teens, anyone interested in or dealing with family abuse
Shelves: young-adult
A good account of a domestic life under siege. Matt and his sister Callie try to protect each other and their youngest sister from their unstable, irresponsible and clearly mentally ill mother, who can veer from manic cheer to vicious cruelty in seconds. The writing is pretty simple, but the short sentences and short chapters fit the edgy, survivalist mode of the story. I like that there is redemption (at a price), but not the kind of heroics the reader might expect.

I found it ironic (intention
What did I learn from this book? Well, a very obvious lesson which is the rule of survival at its basic level is self –preservation. When you’re in danger, your human instinct is to protect yourself. This story, however, showed me that as humans when we truly love someone, we’ll neglect our most basic instinct and protect those we love even if it endangers our own life.

This book is about three children who are being raised by an abusive mother. It was never quite clear if she was manic depressi
Alisha Marie
I HATED the mom in The Rules of Survival. So much that my blood pressure would literally spike while reading of the cruelties she inflicted on her children. I loathed the adults who turned a blind eye to the abuse because they just didn't want to deal with it at the time. In my book, by turning a blind eye, you become just as bad (if not worse) than the abuser. But yeah, this book had me pissed off through a vast majority of it and horrified when I wasn't pissed.

The Rules of Survival is one of t
The Rules of Survival:
Surviving the Unsurvivable

What would you do if you had an abusive and irresponsible mother? Would you tell someone? Pretend it wasn’t even happening? Make it stop? In The Rules of Survival, by Nancy Werlin, Mathew is the oldest of his three siblings who all have faced this problem every day of their lives. This realistic fiction novel is based in Boston, where the children have no one to turn to except each other, with an absent father, and an aunt who doesn’t seem to kn
This book terrified me, but I would say such in the most constructive way possible. Why? Well, for one, Nancy Werlin places the reader right in the center of 14-year-old Matthew's experiences in protecting his siblings from a mother from heck and back. The reader sees the desperation in his penned letters to his youngest sister Emmy chronicling the abuses they endured...and the desperation of getting out. If you're not aware of how terrifying Matthew's mother, Nikki, can be - consider some of he ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for

"You looked at Callie and me from over our mother's shoulder... I hoped you wouldn't try to wriggle out of the embrace, because in fact our mother seemed to be in a good mood. She was humming. Cocaine? New man? There were a few possibilities, and I didn't care which one it was. Maybe we'd have an okay evening."

Those are the words of Matthew Walsh as he tells a story of survival to his youngest sister Emmy. Matthew has decided to w
Lucy Martinez
How can a mother love her children, but treat them like she doesn't at the same time? Most children feel safe around their mother, but not in this case. This is realist fiction story about Matthew and his two sisters that have to deal with having a dangerous mother.

There are a lot characters in this book, but without Nikki there wouldn't be a story. Nikki, the main character is the mother of her three children. She shows her love for her children differently, she's definitely dangerous and a bit
Alicia Marie
Jan 16, 2008 Alicia Marie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teenagers,people that like drama
This is a very good book. I would like to read books like this all the time if I could. It was a book that you could fallow along with very good. It is about these three kids that have to live with there crazy mother. The oldest boy named Matthew did all he could to keep his sisters together and stay strong for them. The main characters are Matthew, Emmy and Murdogh. Thought out this book Matthew is trying to find Murdogh a man he met in a store. He thought Murdogh was god because he stuck up in ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wow! This was a pretty intense book! It had my heart rate accelerated all the way through. It's about 3 kids trying to survive an unpredictable abusive mother so the content is pretty heavy, but at the same time it's a surviver story so you know it's going to be okay. It kind of reminds me of a book I once read called "Weeping Willow." Both of the books are somewhat emotionally draining but you come out of the experience on a high to see the kids come through a horrific ordeal and land on top. I ...more
Anadela Garcia
Have you ever gone through parent trouble? This book is nonfiction. I think this book is very good but sad because how the parent treats her children. Keep reading to find more interesting horrible things these kids have gone through!

*********SPOILER ALERT***********

This story was meant for him and his little sister Emmy. Matthew is the one who is telling the story and he has two sisters, Callie and Emmy. They live in a apartment with their mother. Their mother would go out and leave her kids al
Sep 28, 2008 Rindi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who love mystery, suspense, and drama
Recommended to Rindi by: people who know i like mystery suspense and drama
This book is an exciting mysterious book about anything that could happen to kids. even the unspeakable!!! i loved it and want eveyone to read it!!!
Anika Ballard

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin was a great novel that simply shows that things do get better. For Mathew, Callie, and Emmy, you would think there was no hope at all. This novel is about three kids struggling with the mental abuse brought by their mother. They finally started feeling safe when their mother started dating Murdoch, but their peace was quickly shut down. After experiencing the feeling of being constantly afraid for so long, you get used to it, but could you imagine how you'd
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katie Julcher
The main character, Matt, has 5 rules of survival.
1. Sometimes, the people who mean you harm are the ones who say they love you.
2. Fear is your friend. When you feel it, act.
3. Protect the little ones.
4. If you coped before, you can cope now.
5. Always remember: In the end, the survivor gets to tell the story.
It all starts when first sees Murdoch. He and his little sister, Callie, find Murdoch and he changes their life, both while Murdoch dates their mother, and after. Having Murdoch around allow
This is a story written in letter form from a boy named Matt to his younger sister Emmy. This book is about the tragedies that surround child abuse. Everyday seems to be a struggle for Matt and his two younger siblings, Callie and Emmy. Their mother is consistently inconsistent when it comes to parenting her children. She's a giant question mark. But everyone knows she is dangerous and scary. Matt has taken it upon himself to protect his sisters. Matt decides to write this letter to Emmy about t ...more
Linda Lipko
I believe the author knows about child abuse, neglect and a sociopathic parent.

Classified as Young Adult genre, the National Book Award Finalist is yet another book categorized as young adult simply because the narrator is a young child.

It is not easy to read about adult violence inflicted on children who desperately need assistance. Twelve year old Matthew Walsh desperately tries to protect his young siblings.

Their mother's mood swings, violence and cruelty is soul numbing and heartbreaking. Th
Jun 16, 2011 Ruhama rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: teen
Matthew is writing a letter to his younger half sister to help her remember what their childhood was like. Their mother is unpredictable and they often live in fear of how she will react when she comes home. Nor do they ever know if she'll be alone or not. The three kids never say anything about being abused because their mother is so unpredictable, and rarely does things that social workers, teachers or other adults describe as child abuse, so they say nothing. Their aunt, who lives downstairs, ...more
Matt and his sisters Callie and Emmy live with their mother who really, really loves them. In fact, she loves them so much that Matt constantly fantasizes about getting away from her. When Callie and he sneak out to the Cumberland Farms store, they see a man named Murdoch stop another man from hitting his young son. Suddenly, Matt can think about nothing but making contact with Murdoch. A year later, Callie has found Murdoch's name and address on the Internet as a 13th birthday present for Matt. ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
When we first meet Matt, he and his sister, Callie, are 13 and 11, at a convince store and they witness a random man stop another man as he yells and slaps his son. Matt hears this man's name, Murdock, and knows he has to find him, that if he helped this kid he could help him because at home things are either bad or really bad and him and Callie need to alter their reactions to gauge them. Then also there is Emmy, who is barely 5 and doesn't really understand.

This story is told through an incred
Ben Jensen
Matt is a young teenager dealing with an abusive mother. While he goes through this life he must do his best to protect his two younger sisters. One evening he meets a man, Murdoch. Murdoch becomes Matt's hero in a sense. He sees the strength and power that he wishes that he could have. As Matt's mother progresses down that path of abuse and succumbing to her demons, as Matt describes, he finds a way for them to be safe with the help of Murdoch, his Aunt Bobbie, and his father Ben.

I really love
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Matthew Walsh-Vivid Character 1 13 Aug 31, 2012 06:34PM  
Cover? 1 23 May 29, 2008 09:46AM  
what would you do 1 20 May 28, 2008 08:27PM  
  • Right Behind You
  • Skin
  • Because I Am Furniture
  • Glimpse
  • Beat the Band (Swim the Fly, #2)
  • Such a Pretty Girl
  • Boot Camp
  • A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life
  • Lessons from a Dead Girl
  • Black Box
  • Safe
  • You Don't Know Me
  • The Death of Jayson Porter
  • Split
  • Runaway
  • You
  • I Don't Want To Be Crazy
  • King of the Screwups
Nancy Werlin writes young adult fiction: New York Times–bestselling fantasy, Edgar-award winning suspense, and National Book Award-honored realistic novels.

Nancy's newest book is UNTHINKABLE, the sequel to IMPOSSIBLE and EXTRAORDINARY.
More about Nancy Werlin...
Impossible (Impossible, #1) Extraordinary Double Helix The Killer's Cousin Black Mirror

Share This Book

1. Sometimes, the people who mean you harm are the ones who say they love you.
2. Fear is your friend. When you feel it, act.
3. Protect the little ones.
4. If you coped before, you can cope now.
5. Always remember: In the end, the survivor gets to tell the story.”
“No. It's actually not okay. And I hate when people say that, when they say it's okay even though it's not. It's better to tell the truth.” 86 likes
More quotes…