Review: ‘The Rules’ by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié

Halloween is in a week, my birthday is tomorrow, and I’ve got an appetite for horror books. Enter a new book I found randomly at a book store called ‘The Rules’ by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié (the same authors who wrote the book the world-famous musical ‘WICKED’ musical is based on. Go figure). I may not be a huge reader of horror novels for teenagers, but I do want to be scared once in a while. And since it’s nearly Halloween and I’m a curious writer, I thought I’d give this one a try.

August DeYoung is a young albino junior in high school whose family is filthy rich and has all the money in the world. Not long after he moves into the small town of Callabrese, California, his world is shattered when his younger sister Alexa goes to a party at a country club with all the ‘cool guys’ and is found floating faced down in the pool. Determined to find out who left her to die and get revenge on those who wronged him and Alexa, August slowly makes his way to the top of popularity and throws a large scavenger hunt in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of town. And the prize for the winner? The answers to the final exams.

Enter the main character of the book named Robin, a meek teenage girl who gets roped into the party by a popular friend and reluctantly takes part in it. Little does she and everyone else know that August plans to humiliate everyone who came to the party and reveal every dirty secret they have to the world, even give them fake answers to get expelled.

However, to especially August’s horror, people begin disappearing at the party and are wound up dead. Communication to the outside world is cut off, blame is pinned on August, and we have no idea whether this is all a ruse by August or if a demented killer has crashed the party.

I really want to despise this book, since it isn’t that original as a story, and is very clichéd in terms of layout. It’s like if every 90’s horror movie had a crossover with Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’. If you really know me, I respect ‘And Then There Were None’ for its layout and the plot and atmosphere, but the characters were either lacking personality or lacking an individual identity. And here, I feel the same way. I want to like the character in this book, but they’re so bland and lacking any individuality that I forget what they look like and half of their names.

The only characters that stood out for me were the main characters August and Robin, but only the latter in the second half of the book. For August, I love looking into how determined he is in finding out who left his younger sister to die, and seeing to sociopathic traits any anti-hero has. We may not know if he is the killer is or not, but I found him being my favorite character out of all of them.

Outside of him and the resourceful Robin, the other characters we’re supposed to feel sorry for lack any personality outside of 90’s horror movie cliché. We have the jock who’s secretly taking steroids, a pretty young actress eating for two, and a band member that’s a junkie, and a gang member with a temper. They’re of course all stuck-up and superficial, but I digress.

The writing also seems a bit lacking in terms of world building. The authors never take the opportunity to describe the surroundings of our characters, and I don’t know where they are exactly. We know where they are, but we don’t know the descriptions of everything around it. Again, show don’t tell.

So do I hate ‘The Rules’? Kind of, but it’s the second half of the novel that kept me reading. When the killer murders the teens more and more, we’re left with only a small band of people and are left in a spine-tingling position, wondering who’s gonna die next and if August is the murderer. Without giving too much away, the second half is where I was turning the pages faster and faster as I got more invested.

So how does ‘The Rules’ hold up? It’s not something new in terms of horror books. Like I said before, it’s basically every 90’s horror movie that meets ‘And Then There Were None’, and didn’t offer anything inventive to the table. I like the August DeYoung character and got invested in the second half, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you love this sort of thing.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

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