Rules

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Rules Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Girl connects with brother who has autism in moving tale.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 69 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

You can find ways to communicate and forge friendships with people who have physical and developmental challenges. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Catherine wrestles with how to deal lovingly with her brother with autism, how to be a friend to a mute paraplegic boy.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rules is the story of a girl named Catherine who feels like her family life revolves around her brother, David, who has autism, and his needs. She loves David and does what she can to help him, but she also wants to be noticed and strives to make friendships outside the home. It's a realistic novel about family dynamics and sibling love that celebrates Catherine's introspectiveness.

Wondering if Rules is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTwinkle Toes April 19, 2020

Sweet and kindhearted

My daughter liked this book because the main character has a brother who is differently abled, and when she attends therapy with him, she meets another boy who... Continue reading
Adult Written byMissPiggy November 9, 2019

A Realistic Portrayal of Autism

Rules is a good book about autism. You will want to find out what happens, and while the book is overly sentimental, it's still not a bad book.
Kid, 12 years old October 7, 2016

Worst book I've read in 3 years!

I had to do a book report on a Newbury Honor Book, so I chose this. Who are these judges? They made a horrible choice! It always seems like it will get good, bu... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 25, 2012

Awesome!!Book. Not.Stinks a big one!!!

Awesome book! It tells about a girl who has to deal with her brother who has autism. Trying to fit in with her new normal neighbor is hard with her brother arou... Continue reading

What's the story?

In RULES, Catherine's brother, David, has autism, and their family life revolves around his needs. Catherine loves her brother and cares enough about him to attempt to help him by compiling lists of rules for living like neurotypical people: "If someone says 'hi,' you say 'hi' back." "If the bathroom door is closed, knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!" But Catherine is also frustrated and embarrassed by David and by the way her needs seem secondary, if not nonexistent, to her family. When a girl her age moves in next door, Catherine hopes to be friends but worries that David will ruin the relationship. And her growing friendship with a mute paraplegic boy makes things even more complicated.

Is it any good?

This clear-eyed, unsentimental look at a real family issue has the ring of authenticity. Written by the mother of a child with autism, Rules has two things that raise it above the usual run of "problem" novels. One is Catherine's relationship with Jason, a paraplegic boy who taps on picture cards to communicate. Catherine begins creating illustrated word cards for his book; choosing words and pictures becomes a way for her to look at her own life, to assess and then respond and express her thoughts and feelings. The other is the poignant way David sometimes communicates -- through memorized sections of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books. Their mother disapproves, wanting David to use his own words instead of quoting someone else's. But David chooses pieces that are metaphorically and expressively appropriate, and when he and Catherine engage in one of their delicate Frog-and-Toad dialogues, it's lovely enough to bring a lump to your throat.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how autism is shown in Rules. What did you learn about autism that you didn't know before? 

  • Do you know someone on the autism spectrum? How does that person see things differently from people who don't have autism? 

  • Try creating your own list of rules for daily living.

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love family stories and tales of of kids with autism

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate