By Erin Downing
Publication Date: November 20, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Xpresso Book Tours
Sometimes, a few dares can change lives…
The weekend before the start of senior year, Sophie Erickson and her best friends, Ella and Grace, discover a handwritten list of dares tucked away in the glove compartment of Sophie’s beat-up old Toyota. But this isn’t just any list; it’s a dead girl’s bucket list.
Sophie’s beloved aunt Suzy died as a teenager in a fatal fall, leaving Sophie with an overly cautious family, a few fading photographs, and a bucket of bolts that barely passes for a car. But now, Sophie has Suzy’s list of the things she wanted to do in her last year of high school. Sophie can’t help but wonder: What would happen if she tried to fulfill Suzy’s last wishes, to live out the longed-for life of her aunt, her hero?
As Sophie and her friends attempt to knock off the things on Suzy’s list of dares, love blossoms in unexpected places and Sophie begins to feel that her life is finally coming together…when in fact, everything is slowly unraveling around her. When the truth about a long-held family secret threatens to shatter everything she believed to be true, Sophie is forced to question everything she knew about the life and people she believed in, and ultimately herself.
The cover for None of the Regular Rules is a little bit misleading – the romance in the story is more of a subplot than the main story, but even though I kept waiting to, I never missed it. I’m going to have to run around my house knocking on as much wood as I can find, because I’ve had such a run of unexpectedly good books, I feel like I’ve been ridiculously lucky. And now I’ve just jinxed myself.
This book didn’t blaze any new trails in the general coming-of-age story, but there was something about Downing’s writing, the characters and the setting that just felt comfortable to me and made this special. Sophie, Ella and Grace made the perfect group of mismatched friends, one I recognized from my own high school days.
The three girls are hanging out at the end of the summer vacation when they come across what looks like a bucket list written by Sophie’s late Aunt Suzy. Suzy died when she was around Sophie’s age, falling from the ladder at the top of the water tower in a freak accident; deciding to honor her aunt, Sophie decides to go through with all of the things on the list, with the help of Ella and Grace. When school starts and the list gets serious, it stops being fun for everyone and the girls drift apart. Sophie is left to do the things with her cute, popular neighbor Johnny Rush, until she has to confront some hard truths about Suzy and the list.
One of the reasons Sophie starts with the list is because she feels like she doesn’t have any direction or anything special about her. Grace is the driven, annoying, perky preppy one, Ella is the creative, super-confident, slightly scary one and Sophie is just the quiet loner who everyone generally likes, who sort of coasts through things without making an effort to be better. Living Suzy’s dreams will force her out of her shell, but half of the stuff on there is way, way outside of her comfort zone. Enter Johnny, who seems like the kind of guy who’s done just about everything at least once.
Johnny is cute, cocky and supposed to be somewhere else with someone else, but he’s still in town and hanging around Sophie on and off. I loved his sort of devilish charm and that he was such a crazy goof. It was nice that he was a good friend to Sophie for a while and I’m glad that the tiny little romantic thing between them was as limited as it was. It fit with their situation and the rest of the story.
I loved Sophie in all of her messy, mixed up teenage glory. Her relationships with her friends was really unique and special and even though she thought she was a non-entity, I saw Sophie as hugely brave for so many things she did, including being the main mediator when Ella and Grace clashed. I’m glad Downing showed the relationship she had with her parents, especially her mom, to see how it played out rather than just having them as The Background People Who Gave Birth To The Main Character.
This is something in between a light and easy read and an “issues” story. Because of Downing’s deft style, the time flew by as I read this and I stayed immersed in this last year of high school for a trio of teenage girls. The list meant so many different things to Sophie that it was a delight to see her grow as the list evolved and her relationships with the people helping her with it changed. This ends on an absolutely perfect note. In that moment I even forgave Downing for giving Johnny Rush that horrible porn star name.
My Rating: A
Erin Downing has written more than a dozen books for young adults, tweens, and kids. Her guilty pleasures include an unhealthy obsession with reality TV and cheesy romantic dramas (Revenge! Alias!), an addiction to Us Weekly magazine, and cupcakes.
Before turning to writing full time, Erin worked as a book editor, spent a few months as a cookie inventor, and also worked for Nickelodeon. Erin has lived in England, Sweden, and New York City, and now resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and kids. More information about Erin and her books can be found at: www.erindowning.com.
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