Title: None of the Regular Rules
Author: Erin Downing
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Source: An e-copy was sent by the author in exchange of an honest review
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.
Bucket lists. We all have them. Sure, the may not be technically written, but they're there in the backs of our minds. After reading this book's blurb, I knew that I had to read it. I've just started writing a bucket list a few weeks ago, and almost immediately after, I chanced upon this jewel of a novel. It's almost like fate, huh?
Sophie is at a time in her life where every single thing she does had become part of a boring routine, and she can't quite shake the feeling she ought to be doing more in life. She's currently a senior in high school, yet somehow, she feels like she hasn't been able to do anything that would set her apart from her peers - anything that would make her feel that she was able to me something out of herself. When she finds the her dead aunt's list, she finds a purpose, and she embraces it whole-heartedly. Not only did the list serve as a way to both honor and get to know her late aunt better, it also serves as a method for her to step out of her shell.
I enjoyed reading about Sophie's journey - her desire to make something more of her life was palpable, almost tangible even. She was overjoyed at finding her dead aunt's bucket list, because she knew that dares it contained would push her out of her comfort zone, and would ultimately make her final year in high school memorable. Moreover, Sophie knew that she had to fulfill her late aunt's wishes, simply because this was her way to keep her aunt's memory intact, and also at the same time to bring honor to the aunt whom she truly loved. Like Sophie, I'd always found myself wishing for something more, hoping for something more, and truly being joyous whenever I get a little push towards the direction I want to see myself moving towards. We all need a little prodding - a little encouragement - in life sometimes, after all. Downing was able to portray Sophie in a way that readers would see bits of themselves through her, and ultimately connect and relate to the said character.
Honestly, however, I wasn't quite fond of Ella's and Grace's characters. I found them stereotypical - Ella was the in-your-face girl who was using her brashness as a means to hide her despair at her filial issues; Grace, meanwhile, was the shy and highly intelligent overachiever who somehow couldn't see that her boyfriend was practically controlling and manhandling her. Also, I felt like their characters were never explored enough - None of the Regular Rules is a rather short novel, and since most parts of it focused on Sophie, Ella and Grace often felt like afterthoughts. I know that they had their own problems, but I couldn't quite shake the feeling that everything about them was forced. I couldn't make myself care about their characters. Ultimately, I saw Ella and Grace as nothing but sidekicks, and I wasn't really able to dispel that notion.
The novel started out innocently enough - three friends find a list of dares and set out to do it, but midway though, Sophie was privy to a revelation that shocked her to her very core. Everything she believed in was a lie, and she had no idea how to go about her life now. She was at the lowest of the lows, and yet she didn't want to claw her way out. She was more than willing to wallow in the sallow depths of her misery. Moreover, at this time, Sophie, Ella and Grace had managed to alienate themselves from each other, and Sophie had no one to rely on. It was during this point that this novel proved to be memorable, and one of those literary works you will think about again some time in the future. Downing's writing - while already smooth, concise and overall good - at this part was phenomenal. You could truly feel Sophie's undoing - her resentment, her despair, her discontentment were like these tangible tendrils that wrapped at your wrists and wouldn't let go.
All in all, None of the Regular Rules surprised me - I delved into it expecting a light read, and it ended up tackling serious issues. While I wasn't particularly enamored with the characters of Ella and Grace, I did like Johnny Rush (what a tool of a name!) and what he brought to the novel. Also, as I've previously said, I also liked how the MC, Sophie, was portrayed. Most importantly, however, I really enjoyed reading about how Sophie tried to tread the line between living someone else's life and having it merely influence her own.
Rating: 3.5 Stars