Stefan Petrucha,
The Rule of Won
(Walker & Co., 2008)

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could have anything you wanted just by wishing for it badly enough? Just imagine what a whole group could achieve by wishing, chanting and believing -- be it good or bad.

You'd think a self-acclaimed slacker would go for something like this like gangbusters, but Caleb Dunne knows better. After he was wrongly blamed for the destruction of his school's new gym, all the wishing in the world didn't make any of his classmates believe his claims of innocence, much less like him any longer. Only one thing could ever make him join any school club, especially one built around the teachings of the mega-popular book The Rule of Won -- and that would be a girl. He finally gives in and reads this book his girlfriend Vicky is so wildly excited about; he joins the school's new Rule of Won "Crave" just to make her happy; he even gets excited when the club's early attempts at "imanifesting" actually succeed. Heck, who wouldn't be excited to see the school basketball team actually win a game for a change?

All too quickly, though, Caleb sees the dark side to this group-think mentality run amuck. Does he have the courage to stand up against it, though? It could mean losing his girlfriend and isolating himself once again from classmates who have begun to finally accept him. It might even put him -- and others -- in danger.

The leader of the Screech Neck High Crave is Ethan Skinson, a new transfer student who Caleb immediately labels a little "too" -- a little too clean-cut, a little too straight-laced, etc. (including, as far as Caleb is concerned, a little too "freaky"). After he joins the Crave, he has to add "a little too attractive to Vicky" to the list -- but that isn't why he eventually turns on the group (well, it's not the only reason, anyway). There's his other friend Erica, whose desperation to pass algebra turns her into a chanting fool who stops studying altogether, putting all of her trust in Ethan and The Rule of Won. More than anything else, though, it's the consequences of the group's success. As long as they get what they want, the Cravers don't seem to care if anyone gets hurt along the way, and those who dare criticize the increasingly powerful group set themselves up for bullying or worse.

The dangers of group-think litter the landscape of history, and a high school makes for a perfect microcosm in which to illustrate the dangers of one group gaining influence and refusing to tolerate any level of dissent. Perhaps the best example of this is an old after-school special called "The Wave," which left a deep and lasting impression on me and, I have to believe, many others who saw it. The Rule of Won, though, takes this message to places that even "The Wave" did not dare to tread and, I daresay, will leave quite a lasting impression on many of its readers.

The book is tailor-made for its primary audience of young-adult readers, as Stefan Petrucha has long been a prolific writer of teen and tween fiction as well as graphic novels. While no adult would dare claim to understand teenagers, Petrucha certainly has a knack for appreciating and communicating the vagaries of teen angst, and that makes his characters almost as genuine as any group of high school kids you'll run across in real life. Petrucha also knows how to tell a darn good story, making The Rule of Won a hard book to put down. Always interesting and eventful, oftentimes quite comical, this powerful and thought-provoking novel offers plenty of food for thought even as it entertains. Even young adults who don't normally enjoy reading might be surprised at just how quickly and deeply they are drawn in to this powerful and fascinating storyline.

review by
Daniel Jolley

19 June 2010

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