Three-year member of the Wattpad writers community, Starzee or account name The_Starzee, has produced multiple stories from a variety of genres. “Lifelong friends with procrastination,” as she would say, this author was able to crack down long enough to complete her heart-clenching, mood-shifting novel The Rules of Survival. The first book of the Mercer series, Starzee has without a doubt conquered the art of reaching her readers’ emotions. Each chapter becoming more and more devastating, it’s a wonder why anyone would willingly let themselves become caught up in the sad life of main character, Ioney Mercer, and her family.
The truth of the matter is that Starzee has fashioned a world of violence, tragedy, and resilience so accurate to the reality of a genuine gang life with the twist of a small brewing romance that she quite easily hooks her reader. By adding romance into the mix, it is safe to say she does a great job balancing the romance in the novel with the novels overall focus of survival. Unlike most new Young Adult authors whose novels often tilt to either the fantasy world or the average teen love life, the Mercer series holds a reality of neither the good life nor the magical world.
Written in first person, from the perspective of teenage Ioney Mercer, the tale tells the detailed journey of one girl who must pick up the pieces of her family after the death of her breadwinning older brother Kalen. Already so lost in poverty with a mother whose grief has disabled her from contributing to her six remaining children’s survival, Ioney is forced to grow up faster. To make matters worse, Kalen’s old gang proves to be a much more threatening obstacle to the continued existence of the Mercer family as they begin targeting Ioney. Stuck with no other choice but to turn to the one man that she blames for her brother’s death, renowned gang member Justice Montoya, Ioney now also fears the price his help might cost her.
The strategic use of first person in this novel was a smart decision as the depths of Ioney’s every emotion can be better examined this way. Not dialogue heavy, as would have been expected with all the action occurring, a large part of the novel’s struggles occur within Ioney and the way she strives to prioritize the day to day unwanted surprises. Starzee has an amazing gift for creating real reactions within her characters in the context of the environment they are subject to. Although she may stretch the abilities of Ioney’s resilience and death-like encounters with the gang, Starzee stays grounded with her tale, not pushing the limits of reality’s possibilities. This means, although the very personification of strong, Ioney is a very real person to readers because she goes through stages of complete breakdown that are incredibly human like, “It physically hurt more than I thought it would to give up. But I was so tired and so broken. I wanted nothing more than to be left alone. ” After which, she will pull herself back together for the sake of the family, making her strong and selfless, as she does everything for her siblings and often forgets about herself. In respect to the dangerous world Starzee has constructed, Ioney Mercer’s refusal to give up can be considered a true representation of womanly strength and the lengths women would go to protect their family.
With all this being said, there are some faults to this story. Starzee makes it no secret that the story contains not only violence but also the offensive language that such violence often evokes. She cautions readers in her synopsis that the story might not be “suitable” for the younger crowd. In addition, because this book isn’t “Barnes and Noble” published (yet, but it should) there is plenty of room for errors and the occasional need for grammatical corrections. Even so, these slips are far and in-between.
Since Starzee began the novel at Kalen’s funeral, which led to a downward spiral of unfortunate events, so shall the novel end with the funeral of another important man which readers can only assume will set the stage for events to follow. As character Loney says, “There’s a saying: Death is only the beginning.”
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This is only the first novel to the Mercer series, the second of which, called The Rules of Engagement, has begun the writing structure and is not yet complete but can be found on Starzee’s profile page. If you like The Rules of Survival than you’re in for a treat with this next one. Ioney’s journey is nowhere near done, the girl is finally out of school (well sort of) and must come to terms with some loose ends from the last novel.