Rules by Cynthia Lord (2006)

I watch the back of David’s head and repeat in my mind: Do well today. Do well today (p 66).

rulesIn this coming of age story, twelve-year-old Catherine must reconcile her desire to be a normal with her role as older sibling and part-time caretaker of her younger, autistic brother David whose behaviors she finds embarrassing. Her attempts to control his behaviour by stressing a set of rules more often backfire than not.

Each chapter begins with one of these rules or guidelines.

If you don’t have the words you need, borrow someone else’s (p 50).

These rules seem simplistic and universal when listed at the beginning of the novel, but they gain dimension with each passing chapter, weaving together to reflect the complexity of Catherine’s feelings. The reader is drawn into Catherine’s routine by her authentic voice, feeling her frustration, anxiety and love with every interaction. Her situation becomes even more complex when she strikes up a friendship with Jason, a young paraplegic. Though seasoned readers will anticipate the ending, it doesn’t detract from the feeling the story clearly means to elicit.

Thankfully, I listened to this book while on a long drive. I didn’t have to pause because that would have been unbearable. The reader, Jessica Almasy, was wonderful.

Library Audio Book | Recorded Books | ISBN 978-1428152113 | Ages 9 and up | $17.49

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