Study Guide

The Usual Rules Mortality

By Joyce Maynard


Death is a pretty big specter in The Usual Rules—you know, since it's a book about 9/11 and its aftermath. Our main girl Wendy goes from being a carefree thirteen-year-old girl to someone who is intimately acquainted with death after her own mother dies in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Janet's death reverberates through the lives of all the characters, and they each deal with her absence in their own way. One thing's constant, though: Things aren't easy after Janet dies, and nothing is "normal" anymore.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why doesn't Louie understand that his mother is dead? Where does he think she is?
  2. How does Wendy process Janet's death? Does she accept that her mother is really gone?
  3. Why does Josh say he would rather be the one who died?
  4. What is Garrett's reaction when his own mother dies? Why is he so upset?

Chew on This

Even though Louie doesn't fully understand the concept of death, he knows something awful has happened to his mother, and this is what leads to his fits and tantrums.

When his mother dies, Garrett isn't upset because he'll miss her—he's upset because they'll never have the chance to have a good relationship now.