Study Guide

The Usual Rules Coming of Age

By Joyce Maynard

Coming of Age

In The Usual Rules, Wendy is on the cusp of adolescence—as a thirteen-year-old, she's starting to change both physically and emotionally. The death of her mother only speeds up this process. Suddenly Wendy isn't just a kid anymore; she's a young woman focused on discovering herself and learning how to cope with some very serious adult issues, like the death of a loved one.

When Janet dies and Wendy moves to California, she has to deal with a huge amount of turmoil and change in her life—and Wendy rises to the occasion spectacularly. She grows up, blossoming into a young woman her mother would absolutely be proud of.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. How does Wendy start to explore her sexuality over the course of the book?
  2. Do you think Wendy or Amelia grows up more throughout the book? Why? Turn to the text for evidence.
  3. How does Janet's death force both of her children to grow up? What similarities and differences do you notice between Louie and Wendy?
  4. Does Garrett become more mature by taking care of Wendy? If so, how? If not, how does this contribute to Wendy's growth?

Chew on This

Surviving the events of 9/11 and losing her mother forces Wendy to grow up a lot faster than she would otherwise—she can't help but see the world in a new, more uncertain light.

Without going to California, Wendy would not have grown up as much as she does over the course of the book.