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Reading Group Gold
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The Usual Rules



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About The Author

Joyce MaynardJoyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard has been a journalist and fiction writer for many years. Her books include the novel To Die For and the memoir At Home in the World. She lives in Mill Valley, California.

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Reading Group Gold

Beautifully rendered, The Usual Rules follows 13-year-old Wendy, who lives with her mother stepfather and little brother in Brooklyn, and whose world is transformed in a single terrible instant, one day in September, 2001. Her mother goes to work that morning. She doesn’t come back.


1. Following the death of her mother, would you expect a young girl in Wendy’s situation to be more emotional and less in control than she appeared? Is it believable that she behaved as she did?
2. If you have lost a parent—at whatever age the loss occurred—talk about how the experience changed you.
3. What was your initial impression of Garrett? How did your feelings about the man change over the course of the novel?
4. What did you feel about Wendy’s decision to go to California? Should Josh have prohibited her leaving?
5. Did you anticipate the source of Louie’s dismay on his birthday? Do you think the author wanted you to do so?
6. How do you feel about Josh becoming involved with Kate?
7. What do you consider to be the function of Violet? Of Tim? Of Carolyn’s son? Of Todd? Do they serve a function in the story or distract you from the main action surrounding Wendy and her family?
8. What do you think about Garrett’s decision to let Wendy skip school after ?nding out that she was not attending ninth grade in Davis?
9. What is the signi?cance of the title, The Usual Rules?
10. What do you envision will be the issues that arise in Wendy’s future? Are you hopeful that she can go on to live a happy and healthy life after this kind of trauma and loss?

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