Study Guide

The Usual Rules Family

By Joyce Maynard


From the beginning of The Usual Rules, it's clear Wendy doesn't have the stereotypical family. She has a stepfather named Josh and a half-brother named Louie, both of whom she considers more of her "real" family than she does her biological dad, who lives all the way in California and hardly ever visits or calls her. But after her mom Janet dies in the 9/11 attacks, Wendy goes to live with Garrett (her biological father), and when she does, she ends up gaining and creating a new family on the West Coast to accompany the amazing family waiting for her in New York City.

Questions About Family

  1. How does Wendy feel about her mother marrying Josh at first? Does her opinion change over time? What does this reveal about her understanding of family?
  2. Does Wendy actually want to go and live with Garrett forever? Why or why not?
  3. Why do you think Garrett decides to step in and take care of Wendy after Janet dies? Be specific and back up your answer with evidence from the text.
  4. What is Garrett's relationship with his own mother like? How do you think this influences his relationship to family in general? Look at his dynamic with Janet, Wendy, and Carolyn.

Chew on This

Family is about love and being there for each other more than it is about sharing the same blood in The Usual Rules.

When she moves to California, Wendy doesn't lose her old family; she gains another one in Garrett, Carolyn, and all the friends that she makes.