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The Usual Rules: A Novel Paperback – Feb 18 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (Feb. 18 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312283695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312283698
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 2.5 x 21.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #85,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Wendy, the 13-year-old heroine of Joyce Maynard's The Usual Rules, lives in a happy, haphazard Brooklyn household with her dancer/secretary mom, her jazz musician stepfather, and her eccentric little brother. Life for Wendy is fraught with the usual teen angst until September 11, when her mom heads off to work at the World Trade Center and never comes home. Wendy struggles through the days with stepfather Josh and brother Louis until on Halloween night her estranged biological father shows up and offers to take her home with him to California. On the West Coast, Wendy devises her own healing process of skipping school, hanging around with an unwed teen mom, and spending hours loafing at a bookstore. Maynard is very good on Wendy's grief. She tries on one of her mother's dresses and realizes with a shock it still holds her mom's perfume. She's undone for a moment, then reaches "for the bottle of aftershave on Josh's bureau and patted some on her neck and arms. If you were going to smell like one of your parents, it was better to smell like the one who wasn't dead." She's equally convincing when she writes about Wendy's developing relationship with her loner dad and her growing understanding that Josh and Louis are now her real family. This graceful book about loss and adolescence is marred only by its use of September 11 as its milieu. Maynard sketches in some scenes at Ground Zero and some firefighter characters, but in the main the book is really about a girl and her dead mother. Using the Trade Center tragedy as a jumping-off point doesn't deepen the story; in fact, it seems a bit opportunistic. Maynard should have trusted the elegant, compassionate material at the heart of her book. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

While the first 50-odd pages of Maynard's (To Die For; At Home in the World)new novel are emotionally harrowing, perseverance is rewarded. Set both in Brooklyn and the small town of Davis, Calif., following the events of September 11, the book tells the coming-of-age story of a girl whose mother goes to work one morning and doesn't come back. Wendy, who must bear the burden of having the last conversation with her mother end in anger, must also help care for her four-year old half-brother, Louie, while her stepfather, Josh, struggles to deal with his own grief. Attempting to escape her depressing surroundings and numb state of mind, Wendy leaves her family and best friend to live in California with her estranged father, Garrett. There she meets a colorful cast of characters, including Garrett's cactus-loving girlfriend, Carolyn. She also encounters bookstore owner Alan, who affectionately cares for his autistic son; a young single mother struggling to parent her newborn; and a homeless skateboarding teenager in search of his long-lost brother. The lack of quotation marks to set off dialogue makes the text difficult to read at times, and Louie seems a little too adult, even for a precocious child, but the intense subject matter and well-crafted flashbacks make for a worthy read. Though some may be tempted to charge Maynard with exploiting a national tragedy, most readers will find the novel an honest and touching story of personal loss, explored with sensitivity and tact. Maynard brings national tragedy to a personal level, and while the loss and heartache of her characters are certainly fictional, the emotions her story provokes are very real.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
In the afterword of Joyce Maynard's sensitive and instructive "The Usual Rules," the author shares with readers her motivation in writing the novel. She hopes to "tell the story of how it is that a young person can survive great and terrible heartbreak" and restore a sense of hope about her future. Not only does Maynard succeed in this goal, but she has also crafted a work that deals with adolescent identity, family reformation and person response to social disaster. Using sympathetic characters who struggle with sudden death, the author brings needed insight as to how Americans might overcome the trauma of September 11.
Thirteen-year-old Wendy complains about her mother's inability to understand her; she bristles contemptuously over her mother's sense of outrage about the father who abandoned both. Despite the fact that Wendy has an adoring, creative and energetic step-father and a step-brother who worships her, she wades through her days awash in angst. September 11, 2002 changes all that. Everything that was stable, permanent, accepted crumbles; that which was certain becomes ambiguous. "Nothing was as it seemed -- that was what she understood now."
Submerged in grief, her step-father Josh consents to Wendy leaving her Brooklyn home to spend time with her biological father, Garrett, who has created a life in Davis, California. During this time of exile, Wendy confronts not only her grief, but her need to form an identity which will last the rest of her life. This task, daunting as it is with an intact family, is made all the more difficult in a strange, unfamiliar environment.
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Format: Paperback
Wendy is exhibiting all the usual traits of a 13-year-old living in Manhattan. Things with her mom have not been so great lately. Wendy has even taken to attacking her stepfather, whom she loves dearly, and ignoring her little brother. Everything changes on the morning of September 11, 2001, and the usual rules no longer apply. We watch Wendy deal with her grief by accompanying her "real" father to California, where 9/11 is somehow less real. Through Wendy's "secret" choice of foregoing school for a while, and the development of new friendships in California, she begins to deal with the overwhelming grief and loss she has experienced. Time and love help heal Wendy, and only then can she return to her father and brother back east. Seeing 9/11 through Wendy's eyes gives the reader a new perspective on this terrible tragedy and the healing that can occur in the aftermath. The Usual Rules, by Joyce Maynard, allows the reader to look at Wendy's life before and after through a series of memories. As Wendy struggles to deal with the reality that her life has been forever altered by an event beyond her control, she begins to appreciate and honor the life with which she is left. This bittersweet novel will leave readers thinking about their own lives long after the book is finished.
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Format: Hardcover
At some point even the most extreme and horrific events, so raw and immediate now, become history. Novels, as opposed to other art forms or nonfiction, are a good gauge of this moment --- the moment when we can examine an event and begin to understand its aftermath and consequences.
As evidenced by Joyce Maynard's latest novel THE USUAL RULES, 9/11 is now one of these events that characters (read: we) have survived and built a life after and in response to. This novel is not about 9/11, but that is the starting point --- the catalyst for action and change.
On Tuesday, September 11th in Brooklyn, thirteen-year-old Wendy sits in class just as she would any other weekday. She left home slightly angry at her mother and a little annoyed at her stepfather, which seemed typical to Wendy these days. But when the earth beneath New York City shook and debris started raining from the sky, Wendy's perspective changed.
Wendy's mother, a former dancer, worked in one of the World Trade Center towers. After the attack, Wendy, her stepfather Josh and her little brother Louie hold on to hope that she has survived. As the days go by, it becomes apparent that Wendy's mother is dead. When the biological father she hardly knows (but always dreams about) shows up, Wendy decides to go to California with him. She hopes that life with her father will help her heal and allow her to create a new life for herself. But she doesn't realize how difficult it will be to start again and leave Josh and Louie behind.
In California Wendy does create a new life, but one based almost solely on shedding the traces of her past. She stops going to school and spends her time at a local bookstore reading the classics suggested by the friendly owner. She also befriends a teenage mother struggling to raise her son alone.
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Format: Hardcover
A while back I finished Joyce Maynard's The Usual Rules. It's impossible to say one looks forward to reading or enjoys a book that takes as its kickoff the destruction of the World Trade Center. In a very basic way, I think that nearly each person, certainly everyone I know, feels as though they somehow own the events of that day. In my case, by virtue of sheer geography, I'm just two degrees of separation away, meaning that I didn't lose anyone directly, but the number of those lost by people I know is obscenely huge. And then there are the pictures of the commuter lots in the towns I know so well with all those cars belonging to people who never came home.
Rarely when reading a book have I been so aware of how the stylistic decisions an author makes affects the reader. Usually, I get annoyed with writers who don't offset dialogue in quotes; the absence of what is really itself a device somehow feels artificial and affected. But here that decision is a mercy. It creates just enough distance that the reader can get through the first 50-100 pages, knowing that Wendy, the 13-year-old girl who forms the heart of this story, will lose her mother when those planes hit. It's also a mercy having the tragedy occur relatively early on, so that both the reader and Wendy have sufficient time to recover.
In terms of plot, afterwards, Wendy negotiates her New York life with her stepfather and halfbrother and her California life with her birth father, who she's hardly seen in years. It's a true coming-of-age novel, turning on the greatest American tragedy in recent memory.
From what I remember of what little I heard people say of this book before I read it was that by virtue of subject matter and some people's impressions of the author, it must surely be exploitative.
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