July 25, 2006

No Toys In The Fish Tank!!

They shape the world for her little brother, David. They are a little bit of hope to his sister, Catherine, that someday David will wake up a regular brother, and know just what to do. They're the Rules. The first rule is: Follow the Rules.

David has autism, and so that means that Catherine is stuck: stuck babysitting, stuck dragging him inside when he screams, stuck repeating reassurances she doesn't want to say. David is stuck, too: stuck inside of his own head, where things are loud and confusing. He loves his sister, and he's doing the best he can.

But sometimes life still stinks a big one.

Catherine's a really good daughter, smart and helpful (though her parents don't acknowledge it enough) but she's being plowed under in her family. Her father's too busy with work to tune in at home, and her mother is working from home and constantly dropping babysitting duties on her. Catherine's 12th summer is a turning point in a life of trying to control everything -- from David's embarrassing outbursts to the way the neighborhood bully, Ryan, talks to him, to the impression the new family next door has of her family. Catherine has the opportunity to make two new friends, and suddenly everything changes. Are there rules for keeping a friend?

A book about how sometimes a whole family can revolve around the needs of one kid, and how one sometimes has to let go and live, Rules is funny, bittersweet and heartfelt; a superb novel.

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