Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Rules of You and Me

The Rules of You and Me
by Shana Norris
Published by Amazon Creative Services
Genre: young adult
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

I am a sucker for Young Adult lit. I believe it gets short shrift from most readers, who consider themselves above it (for some reason) or that it is inferior to "literature." Well, you go ahead and read Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series and get back to me on your misconceptions, okay?

In The Rules of You and Me, we get to know Hannah Cohen, a seventeen-year-old whose life has been sunk to near lifelessness by the floods beset on her by her parents. Her father, a banker, is struggling to right his ship (if I may continue with the metaphor) after his coping skills turn out to be less than successful. As awful as his current predicament may be, he looks like Parent of the Year next to Mother Cohen, whose attempts to drown her troubles does nothing but forestall the inevitable. When she heads off to Paris rather than support her husband - or her only child - Hannah is forced to spend the summer with Aunt Lydia, whom Hannah used to love and revere. Aunt Lydia decamped from eastern North Carolina to Asheville, right when Hannah needed her most, and Hannah has some forgiving to do.

Of course a boy is involved. Jude Westmore. And, yes, someone does say, "Hey" to Jude. (Those of you too young to understand why this is humorous need to listen to this. And you also need to seriously revisit your lack of music history knowledge.) Jude has his own abandonment issues: his father left the family, his brother died while in the military, and his mother, much like Hannah's, chooses to self-medicate her way through her grief. Jude's way of surviving is to hang one of his brother's shirts on the tree in front of his home, as well as retreat away from his friends.

Like two fractured magnets, Jude and Hannah find each other. The two become close, quite emotionally close. But Jude doesn't fit with Hannah's rules, the strictures set forth by her parents. There are thirty of them, and their control over her life provides her with structure in which she can function. But they also control her to such a degree that she has no idea who she is.

A teenager's relationship with control is faced realistically here. Teens like rules - they really do - but yet they want them on their terms. Rules are comforting to some degree, even as teens chafe against them as they strive to exert their individuality. Hannah holds her parents' rules like a security blanket, although when she begins to look at how the rules served Mom and Dad, she begins to realize that she is her own person.

This is not a great book, but it's entertaining and interesting. It's hard not to like Hannah, whose flaws are on full display. She means well, and her earnestness is kind of sweet. She becomes focused on "fixing" Jude, perhaps because she thinks that if she can fix him, she can fix herself. It's always easier to obsess over someone else's problems than your own, and Hannah is no different.

There are some plot holes (Jude is accused of doing something, but we never know the full story), and the ending is very neat and tidy. Too neat and tidy, which is a disappointment after such a realistic approach. You hope things can turn out like that, especially for Hannah, who needs a happy ending, yet you know better.

Teens will enjoy this one, and those of us who kicked out teen years to the curb quite a while ago will too.

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