Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Rules - Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

The Rules
Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié
Delacorte Press

Young Adult/Horror/Thriller
From the outside looking in, it seems like August DeYoung and his sister, Alexa, have it all.  Their parents are wealthy and that gives them freedom and opportunities most teenagers don’t have.  But, while their parents’ money is always around, the parents are emotionally absent, leaving the siblings to their own devices in their new home in California wine country.  August has built up emotional defenses against people who only want to use him and his friendship for his money.  Alexa, though, desperately craves love and attention and acceptance.  She’s gone down a dark road of drug addiction and empty sex in her search for affection.  One morning, she’s found in the pool at the country club, drowned.

August is devastated by the loss of his sister.  Unlike her, he has a strong personality, a genius IQ, and a laser-like ability to focus and plan.  During the following school year, he mounts a campaign to become the guy who throws the best parties; the guy who gives out trips to Europe as door prizes; the guy who stages elaborate scavenger hunts with huge prizes at the end.  To do this, he’s enlisted the help of Beth, up until then just a high school nobody.  A nobody who’s known the A-list kids since birth and can help August work his way into the group.  Now the end of their senior year is approaching.  August has planned (without Beth’s help, for reasons that worry her) what he bills as his final, blow-out, sure to be legendary, party and scavenger hunt. 

The guests assemble at an abandoned factory to begin a hunt with enormous, personalized, life-altering prizes at the end.  With prizes like a Los Angeles agent for the aspiring actress and the use of Mr. DeYoung’s considerable influence on college boards and coaches at stake, no one is going to miss this.  And that’s good, because August knows that at least one of these people – and probably more – was directly responsible for the death of his sister.  Those people need to pay, by any means necessary.  No punishment is enough for their crime. This party is going to be legendary.  And deadly.

If this sounds like the setup to a scary movie, you’re right.  And in less-experienced hands, it could have gone terribly wrong.  Fortunately, these two authors are very, very good at setting the stage, introducing the characters, and giving them all reasons for everything they do.  Everyone comes to the party with their own sets of preconceived notions, their own plans and hopes for the future, and their own secrets.  Take all of those together, and they form a set of ‘rules’ that each of us uses to know how to act from day to day.  Those rules no longer apply here, because there’s a killer on the loose, and there’s no way to know who the next target is.
Every good scary movie needs an innocent-in-all-this heroine.  Ours is Robin: nice girl, good student, the daughter of the high school football coach, the kind of girl who plays Clue with her little brother because he loves it.  Robin is not part of the in crowd.  She was friends with Beth until Beth dumped everyone else for August.  Going to this party is huge for Robin, socially.  Robin, like the reader, walks into the situation completely unprepared.  The authors do a great job of setting the stage and establishing the mood.  There are some unexpected twists that keep this from being too straightforward.  If you like scary movies, you’ll love this book. 
Rating: 8
July 2015
ISBN# 978-0-375-98347-4 (hardcover)


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