Study Guide

The Usual Rules Identity

By Joyce Maynard


In The Usual Rules, Wendy is going through a particularly hard time that forces her to reexamine her life and try to figure out who she really is. As a thirteen-year-old girl, Wendy is already dealing with the question of personal identity and how to distinguish herself from her family and her peers.

But when her mother dies and Wendy ends up moving to California, she decides to start all over: Instead of being the good student, Wendy starts skipping school; she also starts dieting and pursuing the thin body she's always desired. And instead of being entirely uninterested in romance, Wendy starts meeting—and kissing—some cute boys. Talk about a personality shift!

Questions About Identity

  1. How does Wendy become a different person when she moves to California? How does she remain the same?
  2. How does Garrett change as a father over the course of the book? Does he really change? Bust out evidence from the text to prove it.
  3. Does Wendy go back to her New York persona when she returns home at the end of the book? If so, how? If not, why not?

Chew on This

Wendy plans to create a whole new identity for herself when she moves to California, but although she does make some changes, what she really ends up doing is finding herself, not changing who she is.

Although Garrett wants to be close to his mother, he can't because she wants him to be someone different—and he can't pretend to be that person for her.