Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Book Jacket

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life.  Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability.  She's spent years trying to teach David the rules from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"--in order to head off David's embarrassing behaviors.

But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the potential next door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

Filled with humor and warmth, Cynthia Lord's debut novel takes a candid and sensitive look at feeling different and finding acceptance--beyond the rules.


This book made me feel all the feelings.  Not in a gooey way.  Lord has a fantastic ability to write an "issue" book--relationships with handicapable people--with real honesty, humor, and poignancy.

I loved Catherine because she is equal parts loyal and defensive.  She felt like a real 12-year-old.  I loved the honesty of her relationship with every single character.  She loves her little brother, but is always looking for the next way he will embarrass her.  She loves her mom and dad, but resents that they pay more attention to David than to her, while simultaneously realizing they have to.  She desperately wants to be friends with Kris, but isn't willing to open up about the things she really cares about.  And she genuinely likes Jason, the boy in the wheelchair who uses picture words to talk, but she is uncomfortable with how other people see her when she is with him.

It's all very heartbreaking and uncomfortable--because I share those same incongruous emotions when it comes to handicapable people.  That's why books like Rules are so important, to remind the privileged and the healthy that everyone deserves respect, attention, and friendship.

Five out of five grape sodas.

Release Date: April 2006
Reading Level: Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM

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