Alison Rules

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What is It About Alison?

For one thing, she has rules:

  • When stealing a rowboat, ALWAYS check that the oars are the same length, so you don't go in circles.
  • In reference to your best friend's crush, KEEP your feelings to yourself.
  • NEVER use your locker if that's where you ...
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What is It About Alison?

For one thing, she has rules:

  • When stealing a rowboat, ALWAYS check that the oars are the same length, so you don't go in circles.
  • In reference to your best friend's crush, KEEP your feelings to yourself.
  • NEVER use your locker if that's where you werestanding when told the very worst news of all.

But rules — like hearts — are meant to be broken.

From Catherine Clark, author of Frozen Rodeo, comes a profound story of friendship, love, and loss.

Alison tries to deal with the pain of her mother's death by sticking to rules until charming Patrick moves to town, and then she learns that no matter what, life still happens to you.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
High school sophomore Alison is withdrawing: she broke up with her senior football quarterback boyfriend and avoids hanging out with her dad and younger brother. "The strength here lies in Clark's ability to create a very real world through vivid details," wrote PW. Ages 14-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Alison Keany is an emotionally-fragile high-school sophomore dealing with a tragedy she refuses to talk about or acknowledge. She copes with her life by living by certain sets of rules her best friend Laurie calls "Alison Rules:" she never gets emotionally involved with anyone, she never uses the locker at school where she learned of the tragedy, and she avoids anything that reminds her of when she used to be happy. Alison and Laurie become fast friends with a new boy at school named Patrick Kirk, and their friendship is tested when both girls develop a crush on the new boy. Eventually the combination of Alison's refusal to face her recent past and the conflict the girls have over liking the same boy leads to a greater tragedy that forces Alison to begin to come to terms with her emotions, her family, and the way she interacts with others. The author of this book offers an interesting twist on the predictable boy-comes-between-friends premise, and the overwhelming sadness that permeates every aspect of Alison's perspective throughout much of the book is especially effectively drawn. The plot twist at the end that is the catalyst for Alison's healing, however, seems a bit over the top and the idea that this second tragedy would spark Alison's emotional recovery seems a little hard to buy. However, middle schoolers and young teens will enjoy this well-written look at high school life, and the twist at the end saves it from a predictable happy ending. 2004, HarperTempest/HarperCollins, Ages 12 up.
—Lauri Berkenkamp
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2004: Alison meets the clever, wisecracking new boy named Patrick in geometry class, and they become friends when he joins the staff of the high school newspaper for which she is a reporter—not that there is much news in Birch Falls, a tiny town in Western Massachusetts, where there isn't a lot to do beyond bowling and hanging out by the river. Alison, her best friend Laurie, and Patrick start to spend all their time together, and even pull off a great prank at the newspaper. However, when Patrick makes it clear that he would like Alison to be more than a friend, she rejects him, afraid of shaking up her small, controlled world. Alison is afraid of many things, particularly feeling strong emotions, ever since her mother died of cancer a year ago. In retaliation for being rejected, Patrick starts going out with Laurie, which wounds Alison deeply. Fearless, funny Laurie has always been there for Alison, but the relationship with Patrick causes a rift between the two friends. Then Laurie has a tragic accident. In the end, Alison is finally able to express her grief over her losses, and to connect with her feelings and with Patrick. Alison's pain and grief are sensitively depicted, and the emotions stirred up by the romantic triangle are equally credible. Clark, the author of the funny and appealing YA novels Truth or Dairy, Frozen Rodeo, and Maine Squeeze, offers a darker tale here, but it still features her trademark sense of humor, terrific dialog, and memorable characters. KLIATT Codes: S—Recommended for senior high school students. 2004, HarperTempest, 264p., Ages 15 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-High school sophomore Alison makes plenty of "rules" for herself-don't get involved, especially with cute new classmate Patrick; don't go to Boston ever again; don't laugh too loudly or have too much fun. Her friend Laurie tries to bring her out of her shell, but to no avail. Most readers will quickly guess that something terrible has happened to Alison's mother, though they don't find out that she died from breast cancer until the last third of the book. Although it has a few funny moments, this novel is much more serious than the author's Truth or Dairy (2000) and Frozen Rodeo (2003, both HarperCollins). It is a moving story, especially when Alison's repressed emotions do explode, but some readers may find the buildup to that release excessively long. A love triangle involving Alison, Laurie, and Patrick adds interest, however, and a tragedy that occurs in the last few chapters is shocking, unexpected, and heartbreaking. Teens looking for books about daughters grieving their mothers might prefer Karin Cook's What Girls Learn (Pantheon, 1997) or Joan Abelove's Saying It Out Loud (Puffin, 2001), but this is also a solid choice.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060559823
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/26/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Age range: 13 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Clark is the author of Maine Squeeze, Love and Other Things I'm Bad At, Picture Perfect, Wish You Were Here, The Alison Rules, Unforgettable Summer, and many others. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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First Chapter

The Alison Rules

Chapter One

Laurie and I were out in the middle of the river before the Cods could stop us, before they eve's noticed we were gone.

Back on shore, the Cods were huddled around a bon-fire I was pretty sure that Ryan had been drinking beer that night, or at least he'd smelled a lot like beer when he tried to kiss me. I'd seen Kevin and Paul tossing empty cans into the fire, heard them making bets on which can would melt first.

If Ryan had kissed me this time last year, I'd have kissed him back. I'd have been so happy that I'd be enjoying the kiss and at the same time be dying to tell Laurie about it. But not now. So I wriggled out of his grasp, said "Cut it out.'' and ran across the parking lot to get Laurie who was hanging out with some juniors I didn't know. Laurie didn't know them either, but that didn't stop her the way it stopped me.

We grabbed an old, small aluminum rowboat that had been pulled up on shore and dragged it to the water to make our escape. I never would have stolen someone's rowboat on my own -- it was Laurie's idea. Everything was always her idea, including coming down to the boat launch that night, when we hadn't been there in months.

The Gods were Ryan Bouchard, Kevin Calibri, and Paul McGowan. That's what Laurie and I called them because they were like the gods of our school. They were football and hockey superstars, they were good-looking, and they were seniors, two years older than us.

It was bizarre because when Laurie and I were thirteen, it was like they didn't even know we were alive. They never looked at us. We had horrible, intense crushes on them, especially Ryan, but they ignored us, which is probably why we decided they were godlike.

But then all of a sudden, in the spring of freshman year, they wanted to sit next to us at lunch, to invite us down to the launch, to hip check us in the hallway as if we were on the hockey team with them. It could have been spring fever, I guess. But I thought that maybe they'd just suddenly gotten tired of-or run out of-the junior and senior girls. Birch Falls was a small town, and there weren't many potential dates to choose from. You had to be on the lookout for anyone new.

So then sometime last April, Ryan asked me out for ice cream, then to a movie, and I'd panicked and had to ask Laurie to come with me because I didn't know how to act around the Gods on my own. It was okay that I brought Laure, though, because Ryan brought Kevin and Paul. I guess none of us were all that good at being alone.

Anyway, that was last year.

We didn't think they were Gods anymore, but it was hard to break the habit of calling them that. The Duds, Laurie called them instead sometimes. Or the Gobs.

"You know I don't actually swim," Laurie said, peering over the bow of the rowboat into the river.

"Yes, you do," I said.

"Not well, anyway," Laurie said.

We both started to laugh. I remembered the last time I saw Laurie dog-paddle in King's Pond. She could hardly stop complaining about how if it was named after a king, it should be a lake or an ocean or at least a sea. She was too busy talking to swim. She ended up inhaling water and then coughing her way from rock to rock.

"But you know what's cool?" Laurie asked. "When you're out here it's like you have no connection to anything. Like we could be almost anywhere right now."

"If we couldn't see the smokestack, yeah." About a half mile downstream you could see the old, closed-down textile mill and the paper company that still functioned-large, long brick buildings. Half the town was dead, and the other half was on life support.

"Let's go back," Laurie said, sounding a little nervous.

"I was actually already trying to do that." I pulled on the oars to get us headed back toward shore, but the small rowboat kept spinning around, making a circle. I glanced down at the dark, murky water. I knew that I shouldn't be out here. I knew I was supposed to be watching TV or a movie at Laurie's house the way we usually did on Friday nights. We weren't allowed out on our own after dark, except for school events or to go to each other's houses. So we'd lied and invented a Valentine's Day school dance, even though it was a week past Valentine's Day. My father wouldn't notice a detail like that.

"A dance? Really?" my father had said, incredulous. "I thought you hated school dances."

"We're trying to get into the mind-set of a normal person," Laurie had told him. "It starts with going to crap like this."

My father had laughed and agreed I could go, and I'd told him that after the dance I'd be staying over at Laurie's, like I usually did on Friday nights.

It was easy to lie to him. It made me wonder why I didn't start doing it more.

"Alison! We're heading straight for the falls," Laurie said now.

"No, we're not. We're a mile away," I said, exaggerating just a little. "Don't worry, we have time."

But I couldn't steer the boat in the right direction. I'd noticed the oars were slightly different lengths when I slid them into the locks, but that shouldn't matter too much.

I was good with boats, or at least I usually was. My father had insisted on teaching me about the river so I could swim to safety if anything ever happened. He'd had me bail water out of a sinking canoe, tread water for ten minutes, and he taught me how to perform CPR and pump out someone else's lungs in case I was ever boating with my little brother and we capsized, as if my father would let me take Sam out in a boat without going along himself.

The Alison Rules. Copyright © by Catherine Clark. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 32 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2008

    It's Not Just a Sob Story

    From the amazing author Catherine Clark comes this incredibly moving story, The Alison Rules. Despite what Alison's friend Laurie always says, Alison always insists she doesn't have a set of rules. However, she does follow a strange pattern of behavior. She broke up with her older, football-playing boyfriend (one of 'the Gods'), she avoids her locker, and she refuses to go to Boston. And everything is getting along fine in Alison's opinion until the new guy Patrick comes along. The main issue with Patrick is the love triangle. Laurie likes Patrick, and so does Alison though she refuses to admit it. Patrick likes Laurie as a friend, but he likes Alison more than that. Alison believes she can't be with Patrick because she would be betraying Laurie. Alison is forced to confront her past and everything that has been bothering her on a trip to Boston. There, everything comes out. Laurie cruelly exposes Alison's weaknesses until Alison can't take it anymore. There we learn what terrible thing happened to Alison that caused her to create her rules: the death of her mother. The Alison Rules is the basic story of a teen learning to deal with the death of someone close when they feel like there's no one who understands them. After a period of withdrawal, Alison finally learns to cope, though the event that catalyzes this is most surprising and heartbreaking. This was one of the most moving books I have read in a very long time. I even spent the last half of the book crying that's how sad it was. I wouldn't recommend this book if you are looking for a light read, but if you want something with depth and meaning, this novel and other from Catherine Clark are a good choice.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2007

    A Troubled Life Takes an Interesting Turn

    Losing someone is difficult, but getting them back is even harder. When someone hears a statement like that, they usually think about a couple breaking up. In The Alison Rules however, that¿s not necessarily the case. Alison is a teenager living with her younger brother and her single father. She has a rough past that she is trying to forget. Her ex boyfriend, Ryan, was one of the most popular guys in school, but she refuses to play along when he strives to get her back. Her friend Laurie is dear to her, but she has certain things she¿s hiding from Alison. A new victim comes into her life by the name of Patrick who is also coping with a single father. Alison never expected to learn so much from a new kid at school, but who knew she¿d finally find herself in the process? In The Alison Rules, she could lose things she holds dear, but she¿ll realize she can¿t move on until she learns to remember. Catherine Clark has created an extremely interesting story about a troubled teenager. I loved the fact that I could connect to the characters even though I haven¿t lost someone really close. It seemed like a place where kids with losses could find refuge. I was also astounded at how well the title related to the book, which is something prominent. I wasn¿t very fond of the initiations though because they seemed a little drastic. Other than that, it was hard to think of any dislikes of the book. I would definitely present this book as a five! The Alison Rules is an outstanding book, but stands alone. It isn¿t part of a series, but this book alone has inspired me to read more books by Catherine Clark. Thinking about it now, I can¿t really suggest another book that people who read this one would be interested in. I would simply recommend reading a book by Catherine Clark. She really knows how to pull details together!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2010

    Great Read

    When I first picked this book up at my library, I viewed it as a light read. The first half of the book is about Alison being sad about the death of her mother. In the first half, you are introduced to Alison, her best friend Laurie, her family, her controlling ex-boyfriend, and the new guy, Patrick. Alison and her best friend Laurie become good friends with Patrick, and Laurie confides in Alison that she really likes Patrick, as in more than a friend. I could easily see this one coming, but Laurie is not the person Patrick likes more than a friend--it's Alison. This becomes trouble when Patrick starts getting closer to Alison, until she finally says no because she wants to remain loyal to her best friend. Naturally Patrick is upset with Alison, so just to torture her he goes out with Laurie and pretends he likes Laurie, who is very overjoyed about this. On a field trip in Boston, Alison and her best friend have a fight that tears them apart when Laurie starts picking on Allison and revealing things about her mother that weren't revealed earlier in the book. Allison leaves the field trip early, and later she stays away from Laurie and Patrick because she is mad at both of them. An unexpected death occurs near the end of the book that you thought would never happen. By the time I read the very last page of the book, I was still sobbing and I had to convince myself it wasn't real to stop crying. What appears as a light read you can go through and forget became a strong, solid story with emotion. This became an unforgettable story to me, and one that won't leave me for a long time.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    one of my faves

    this is about the 5th or 6th time i've read this book. i fell in love with it in 5th grade and have read it every year since. i can relate to all of the characters, that is the main selling point of this book. I also love how you have to find out what made Alison the way she is. It's almost like a drama/mystery novel. if you like books with a dark edge you'll love this novel.
    P.S. this book is also really funny and has great dialogue!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    loved it

    frustrating at times.. but reallii good story

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008


    i cant even imagine how to write how amazing this book is .Allison to me is one of the stronger people in this book .it is amazingly sad. the caracters are very easy to relat to because they are filled with live, love and soul this book is amazingly amazing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2007

    the best...

    this book was sad, I cried and cried at the end, but it was amazing. It made me feel like I was actually there. It was written so well. The storyline was great too, and I am very picky.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2007

    sad, yet amazing

    i cannot put into words how great this book was. i got it thinking it would be another fun teen romance novel type of book to help occupy my spare time during the summer. like icing on the lake, one of clark's other books. i was wrong. all through the story you think you know what is going to happen at the end, but then clark wrote a very sad different ending. and even though i normally dont like sad stories, allison rules was an exeption. i couldn't stop reading the book. i read it the first day i got it. i would definitly reccomend this book. but if you are getting it, make sure you have a tissue box.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2006

    Fabulous Book.

    The only reason I bought the book is because my name is allison. but when I read it, it turned out to be the best book I had ever read. I cried and cried at the end. I never thought a book could make me cry. great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2006


    This book was so good but sad too. like the way it turned out was like SHOCKER. i just didnt expect it. Overall it was a really good book and everyone should read it. it like captures your attention and then it makes you sad but you cant put it down

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2006

    If you want a good cry....

    this is the perfect book for you. At the beginning of this book I really enjoyed it but felt sad about Allisons mother and her inability to cope correctly with it. But the end of the book was way to depressing for anyone to handle and it was very unbelievable. Overall this was a good book despite the sad things that happen in it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2006

    definetly not what i expected

    When I picked up the books I definetly did not expect it to be something like this. I had not read any reviews, but based my opinion of what it would be like by the front and back cover. Even though the ending was completely unexpected, it was amazing! Very well written and a story that could very easily be the story of someones life. Awesome Job Catherine Clark!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2006


    this book sounded so good when i picked it up and began to read it. even when i was half way through it, i really liked it. but then, the second half - it confused me i guess. the ending was so sudden and unrealistic. the book all together ended up being depressing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2006


    The book i thought would be very good after i read the reviews, so we went and got it. But when i started to read it i didn't get it, i was confused i thought the book was very disappointing. If someone can contact me please do so and tell me the idea of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2006

    A must read book!

    My friend was the one who told me about this book, and when she told me about it i knew that i just had to go out and buy it and read it right away. and im glad i did! its a great book and if your like me it'll have you hooked. This book made me smile, laugh, but mostly cry. Its a great book for teen readers! if your looking for a GREAT book, this is deffentily one to pick up and read. (but dont forget the tissues)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2006

    Wow. Simply wow.

    I picked up 'The Alison Rules' as a fun read when I could not find the book I originally wanted, and as soon as I got home and began to read it, I could not put it down. I read late into the night and when finished had tears in my eyes. Ms. Clark is a pure literary genius. 'The Alison Rules' is very realistic, and I was shocked to find out that many of the things in it actually happened to the author. Catherine Clark has now officially occupied the title of favorite author. I cannot wait for her next titles to come out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2006

    such a great book!

    i just finished reading this book, like a day ago. and i loved it very much. it was so great. but it was also terribly sad. i cried through like the last 50 pages. ha. the part that i didn't like was the ending, it was good, but i wish it would have wraped up better. what would make it even more great is to make it a series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2005!

    I finished this book yesterday and I could NOT put it down! I immediately fell in love with the lead guy (Patrick) and the way she described the characters it made me feel like I actually knew them personally. Throughout the story, it is very easy to make predictions towards what will happen at the end because it seems predictable. But I'm going to tell you in advance that what you're thinking and what she writes are two very different things. I know for certain that I never would have predicted what happened in the end! It was a very good story, definitely one of Catherine Clark's best (but my favorite is definitely Maine Squeeze)!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2005


    No offense to the author but I felt the whole novel was a huge blur of nothing. There wasn't any emotion, unless you count the last 5 chapters which had very little emotion invoked in the reader. As a teenager and an avid reader, I was extremely disappointed in this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2005


    I loved this book. i read it in 1 day. i was really surprised by the ending. i ushually don't like sad books but i loved this 1. i think that patrick (the character in the story) was 1 of catherine clarks best characters.

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