Publisher's Note:  

It's a Tuesday morning in Brooklyn---a perfect September day. Wendy is heading to school, eager to make plans with her best friend, worried about how she looks, mad at her mother for not letting her visit her father in California, impatient with her little brother and with the almost too-loving concern of her jazz musician stepfather. She's out the door to catch the bus. An hour later comes the news: A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center---her mother's office building.


Through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Wendy, we gain entrance to the world rarely shown by those who documented the events of that one terrible day: a family's slow and terrible realization that Wendy's mother has died, and their struggle to go on with their lives in the face of such a crushing loss.


Absent for years, Wendy's real father shows up without warning. He takes her back with him to California, where she re-invents her life: Wendy now lives more or less on her own in a one-room apartment with a TV set and not much else. Wendy's new circle now includes her father's cactus-grower girlfriend, newly reconnected with the son she gave up for adoption twenty years before; a sad and tender bookstore owner who introduces her to the voice of Anne Frank and to his autistic son; and a homeless skateboarder, on a mission to find his long-lost brother.


Over the winter and spring that follow, Wendy moves between the alternately painful and reassuring memories of her mother and the revelations that come with growing to know her real father for the first time. Pulled between her old life in Brooklyn and a new one 3,000 miles away, our heroine is faced with a world where the usual rules no longer apply but eventually discovers a strength and capacity for compassion and survival that she never knew she possessed.


At the core of the story is Wendy's deep connection with her little brother, back in New York, who is grieving the loss of their mother without her. This is a story about the ties of siblings, about children who lose their parents, parents who lose their children, and the unexpected ways they sometimes find one another again. Set against the backdrop of global and personal tragedy, and written in a style alternately wry and heartbreaking, The Usual Rules is an unexpectedly hopeful story of healing and forgiveness that will offer readers, young and old alike, a picture of how, out of the rubble, a family rebuilds its life.

The Usual Rules

by Joyce Maynard

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Overall Review:  

If you have recently read Labor Day and want more of Joyce Maynard's writing, I would highly recommend you try The Usual Rules. This book isn't new by any means, it has been in publication since 2004, but it is still relevant and fresh, just as if it were published yesterday.


September 11th is still a very important and tender day for many Americans. This book tells the story of only a few people who were greatly impacted on that horrible day, and their lives before and after the events. Perhaps this is why the story in this book still feels so relatable--because I have not forgotten, and will not soon forget the tragedy that occurred on a typical September day in 2001. I enjoyed the fact that this book was written from the perspective of an adolescent girl, Wendy. She is struggling with her own problems: friendships, emotions, school, but all of that gets pushed aside one day and is replaced by much more adult concerns. Suddenly her life isn't what it was yesterday, and Wendy doesn't know where to turn for help. I found it easy to imagine myself in her situation, and to consider what life would be like if I had lived closer to ground zero.


If you can find time to read this book, it is one just begging to be read and reminisced with. Though it looks a bit daunting in length, I found it a breeze to read. Perfect for a day or two at the beach or sitting out in the sun in a lawn chair enjoying some decent weather.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation; 2 mild obscenities.


Violence/Gore:  Buildings are bombed and casualties are mentioned with no detail; a mother dies an unnatural death.


Sex/Nudity:  Sex is referenced multiple times; sexual activity is implied several times between adults with no detail; minors talk about sex/ have mature discussion regarding it; a girl is described to be going through puberty with little or no guidance; adults kiss; minors kiss.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death, war, terrorists, family crises, divorce.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Adults drink.

Reviewed By Lydia
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