The Rules of Survival
Seventeen-year-old Matthew Walsh narrates this account of his tumultuous South Boston childhood with one of literature's most despicable mothers: Nikki is 34 when the book opens—pretty, reckless and dangerously manipulative. Through the course of Werlin's (Double Helix ) taut story, Matt and his sisters, Callie and Emmy, tiptoe around her mercurial behavior in a calculated effort to survive into adulthood—hiding in their rooms when she brings strange men home, saying whatever they believe she wants to hear, doing whatever they must to avoid a violent outburst. The children's father and unmarried aunt know the kids are in danger, but their fear of Nikki outweighs their willingness to act. The novel unfolds as a letter Matt is writing to Emmy as he heads off to college. He possesses the insight of a teen who has rocketed into adulthood out of necessity. If some readers find his maturity implausible, Werlin deflects attention from his nearly dispassionate recollection with short chapters and a thread of palpable tension that will easily carry readers along to the hopeful ending. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Agent: Curtis Brown Ltd.