What if you could get anything you wanted, just by wishing for it? But what if what you wished for sometimes led other people to get hurt? What if your plans for a better life, a better world for everyone, instead caused the people you converted over to your belief system to act like fascist Nazis in their enthusiasm and their methods of eliminating any opposition to your point of views? These are a few of the questions explored in The Rule of Won by Stefan Petrucha, a YA novel that readers of all ages can enjoy. It’s sort of an answer, in itself, to the cult-like following books like The Secret that promote the belief that we all get what we secretly wish for, and it’s one that also delivers a very entertaining story with engaging, realistic characters.
The first-person narrator of the book, self-proclaimed slacker Caleb Dunne, is suspended for the rest of the year previous to the events in The Rule of Won for causing the collapse of Screech Neck High’s old gymnasium - what was left of it, anyway, after much of it was already destroyed by a major storm a decade before. A year earlier, the school had “finally found the money to fix it.” All Caleb intends to do is “check it out,” so slipping through the chain-link fence surrounding the construction area. That’s when Caleb’s life takes a decidedly bad turn:
But then the wacky Fates decided to mess with me. With an ungodly loud creak,
like the rusty hinges on a giant-size door opening, the roof and the whole side wall collapsed, bringing down scaffolding and bricks and cinder blocks and wood and letting loose a major cloud of crap that billowed and rushed toward me. Before I could
even think of moving, I was covered in junk and coughing concrete dust.
The police don’t arrest him, though “fellow classmate, super-nerd and wannabe ace reporter All-den Moore,” (actually Alden Moore) sees Caleb running away from the direction of the gym after its collapse. Since there is no actual evidence of vandalism, no charges are pressed. However, Principal Wyatt “didn’t care about evidence” and suspends him.
Back at school, he feels that at least his girlfriend, Vicky, is on his side and welcomes him back, even if the rest of the school still blames him for the gym’s collapse. But even with Vicky, “there were...conditions.” She asks him to change his life and attitude, and to attend a meeting of students who’ve formed a club based on the philosophies espoused in the best-selling book The Rule of Won.
Caleb doesn’t really like the idea of joining anything or working to achieve anything, but he agrees to try going to the meetings for two weeks in hopes that it will help him get into Vicky’s good graces again. The meetings are called “Craves” (the first meeting Caleb goes to is an “Open Crave,” in which everyone is invited, even people who haven’t yet read The Rule of Won, as Caleb is at that point) and are conducted by Ethan Skinson, who has just moved to town with his artistic, younger home-schooled sister Alyssa and father after their mother’s death, and after their father lost his job and got a new one at half his old salary. Ethan seems just a little too earnest about The Rule of Won and its teachings, but soon his club and the idea of wishing for what you want catch on with the other students.
At the meetings, Ethan chooses one Crave, or wish, from those posted by members on an Internet forum. They all repeat over and over, to themselves or out loud, the wish - or some, like the Goth Erica who becomes one of Caleb’s friends, they write it down on paper. Their results seem almost miraculous - they wish for funding for the school to be able to build the gym again, and the school gets a grant to do it. They wish for their basketball team, who have a terrible record, to win a game - and, the team does, though it’s probably mostly because the opposing team is struck by a stomach flu and most of their best players are not playing.
Caleb learns that Ethan’s sister, an accomplished artist, is drawing pictures of the various wished-for outcomes. Is it really The Rule of Won’s powers working through the wishes of the students, or is it coincidence; or is it because Alyssa has some sort of special psychic skills that cause her drawings to become reality?
The Rule of Won is an enjoyable critique of The Secret. But it’s also much more - a suspenseful page-turner that’ll has you guessing to the end about what will happen to Caleb (especially when he agrees to fight Ethan in one of the novel’s most climatic scenes) and if the rest of the students will finally wake up and realize that the beliefs taught by The Rule of Won are just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.
It’s one thing (and a good one) to have confidence in oneself, to have a positive attitude, and to work toward achieving goals, but rarely does what a person wants happen to just fall into his/her lap without their working to get it. This is a very good book that leaves you with a lot to ponder.