The Rules

The Rules

By Author / Illustrator

Tracy Darnton


Suspense & Thrillers

Age range(s)



Little Tiger Press Group




Paperback / softback





Amber's an expert when it comes to staying hidden - she's been trained her whole life for it. But what happens when the person you're hiding from taught you everything you know?  When a letter from her dad arrives, Amber knows she's got to move - and fast. He's managed to find her and she knows he'll stop at nothing to draw her back into the extreme survivalist way of life he believes in.  All of a sudden the Rules she's spent so long trying to escape are the ones keeping her safe. But for how long?

Perfect for fans of Karen McManus, E. Lockhart and A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER.
'A heart-thuddingly nervy thriller' - Financial Times



Amber is a looked-after child who is facing the prospect of spending Christmas alone, that is until her social worker tells her that she has received a letter from her dad. Amber, you would think, would be happy, but sadly you are mistaken; she now has to work out how to escape; she must move on, he can never find her...

Her dad is a 'prepper', an extreme survivalist, and he will stop at nothing to get her back into his way of life. Amber has broken his rules once and when he finds her, she will not break them again! But how do you escape the very person that has taught you all that you know?

In The Rules, author Tracy Darnton has succeeded in writing a pacy, addictive and thought-provoking stand-alone story. She has cleverly set out the short chapters to alternate between one of The Rules Amber used to live by, and the date from the advent calendar that she has tucked into her 'grab and go' bag.

The Rules contains 294 well written pages which are suitable for 14+ confident and less confident readers, as it will easily keep them engaged. This would also be an ideal book for intervention/book club groups due to the many discussion points that are raised within the story. There are some discussion questions at the back of the book to help teachers get things started.

One last thing I must make all you readers aware of...There is a trigger warning at the beginning of the book as it contains content of domestic abuse, PTSD, panic attacks and violence, which some readers may find distressing. Due to this, I do believe the author should have had placed help lines at the back of the book for affected readers to seek further advice.

304 pages / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 14+


I loved reading The Rules, it was a truly addictive read. Amber is a looked after child who is facing the prospect of a Christmas with no foster placement as her boarding school closes for the end of term. She is a bit of a prickly character who is not afraid to call it as she sees it. This blunt honesty, combined with a few incidents in previous foster homes, has made her difficult to place.  Her social worker, Julie, has received a letter from Amber's father which causes Amber to flee from her settled life in her neat little room at Beechwood School. Amber is kicking herself for growing to like somewhere. She should have known that it would not last.

Amber's father is an extreme 'prepper' and master manipulator. He is also not the forgiving type and he has finally, after years of searching, located Amber. Julie probably thinks that Amber's Dad is a Christmas miracle, appearing to solve all her problems with placing Amber. But now that he has found her, Amber feels that there is no way that Julie can keep her saf; Amber grabs her 'grab and go bag' and goes on the run with the advent calendar that Julie gave her and a little cash that she had stashed away.

I really enjoyed Tracy's style of writing with the short chapters, each one dated with a day from the Advent calendar interspersed with a flashback chapter detailing 'The Rule'. Prepping is a fascinating topic. We have all become quite dependent on supermarkets and the internet and have maybe lost some of those basic survival skills. Reading this during a pandemic was interesting. The shortages on supermarket shelves certainly caused anxiety for some and the idea of becoming more self-sufficient is quite appealing.

Amber's father, however, takes this self-sufficiency to a whole new level. He is very controlling. He is the rules and the rules are him. Amber must endeavor to stay one step ahead if she is to remain free of him. She is incredibly resourceful and resilient but the person who is hunting for her taught her everything she knows and is determined to track her down.

The Rules has teen appeal; Tracy certainly knows her audience well. I can see this book flying off our library shelves. It will appeal to readers who enjoy action and adventure, and contemporary fiction with a nod to dystopia. I would be a little cautious about handing this to a looked-after child, though, as it may contain some triggering content for them. That said, I also believe that everyone should be able to find themselves in a book and this one is beautifully written.

Content to note: Foster care, domestic abuse, bereavement, violence, PTSD and panic attacks.

304 pages / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian 

Suggested Reading Age 14+


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