Study Guide

Minor Characters in The Usual Rules

By Joyce Maynard

Minor Characters


After befriending Alan, the bookstore owner, Wendy also gets to know his son Tim. Although Tim is grown-up, he lives in a group home because he's autistic. Through interacting with him, Wendy gets a glimpse into Alan's family life and sees how other people have their own sorrows and responsibilities—ones that aren't immediately visible on the surface. Even though Tim has issues talking to other people, he has things he's passionate about. He loves doing laundry, so Alan takes him to the laundromat whenever he visits. He's a good dad despite the difficult circumstances. Together, Tim and Alan present another portrait of a resilient family.

Nate and Sharon

Nate is the son that Carolyn gave up for adoption many years ago, and Sharon is his fiancé. When Nate says he's coming to visit Carolyn, she's all nervous and excited because she wants to get to know him and perhaps even develop a relationship at long last. But it's clear after they stop by that Nate isn't interested in forming a bond with Carolyn at all—he just wants to know if there are any genetic disorders in her family so they can know what to expect when they have their own baby. Nate and Sharon don't mention anything about Carolyn getting to know the baby or being a part of their lives, which totally crushes her.


While Wendy is in Davis, she meets a boy named Henry at school. He's not the most worldly kid—he seems to think Wendy must know so much more because she's from New York—but they both play the clarinet and like talking about music. Eventually, Henry asks Wendy to become his girlfriend and she agrees. Their relationship isn't super intense (they're more into playing the clarinet together than making out), but Henry is still an indicator of how Wendy changes and grows up while she's in California. She's not just a kid anymore; she's a teenager with her first boyfriend.

Walter Charles

Walter Charles is Violet's baby, and we don't get to see much of his personality throughout the book because, well, he's a baby. In a way, he represents all the kids who have been abandoned by their parents, because as much as Violet loves him and wants to take care of him, she can't. She's just too overwhelmed by motherhood; as a teenager, she isn't equipped to deal with this much responsibility yet. In the end, Violet ends up giving up Walter Charles for adoption even though she adores him.