Review: The Six Rules of Maybe

Scarlett Hughes is overly involved in the lives of everyone around her, and exceptionally interested in the habits of her neighbors. But Scarlett is thrust solidly into her own life when her sister, Juliet, returns home from school—pregnant and surprisingly married to a sweet, handsome man whom she seems to have no interest in, but who is hopelessly in love with her. Forced to take a look inward for the first time, Scarlett discovers the necessity of dreams, as well as the necessity of facing reality and speaking the truth.–From Goodreads

The Six Rules of Maybe was my first Deb Caletti experience, and it exceeded my expectations. The novel is driven by a complex cast of characters. Nothing in Caletti’s written world is black and white. Most of the characters feel very real, and moments of suburban life are likely to pop out at you and remind you of our own experiences–especially the eccentric neighbors. I found Scarlet easy to relate with; she’s an average teenager who often ignores her own problems in an attempt to fix those of her friends and family. Throughout the novel, Scarlet comes to realize that one can push hope too far, and the best of intentions often result in even larger problems. This story is not about wrapping up endings in pretty little bows; it is about coming to terms with the balance between one’s needs and limitations, even if that means you can’t always get what you want.

Slight tangent: I have not been a very good quote collector lately. Much of the time I rely on Goodreads to pull out favorite quotes when I am done with a book, but for many of the books I’ve read recently, there haven’t been almost any quotes listed. This is the only reason I wish I had an e-reader; clipping and annotating digital books would be handy, but so far not enough so that I’m convinced to get one. I love quotes, but I hate interrupting the flow of a book to write them down. (If you have a good method for dealing with this, please leave it in the comments.) This book had so many quotable quotes, though, that I pulled out my post-it flags. I didn’t want to forget any of the perfect lines, so my library book developed its own rainbow of paper along the edges. Given that I collected so many wonderful snippets of the book, I will let the writing speak for itself. You can read just a few of my favorite passages below.

Quotable Quotes from The Six Rules of Maybe

“She held her head as if she were the period at the end of her own sentence.”

“He wasn’t a tree, but a high voltage power line, thin and electric and dangerous.”

“’Jesus Christ,’ Juliet said, although I doubted He’d come if she called. The two of them didn’t know each other very well.”

“The real reason I was so supposedly ‘kind’ –well, it was just less painful to put up with a weird person’s company than to feel the horrible weight of their loneliness. I had a low tolerance for other people’s pain; that’s what it was. And a low tolerance for other people’s pain guarantees that you win the booby prize of hangers-on and clinging, irritating oddballs. You’re probably destined to grow up to be the sort of person who’s nice to telemarketers and who gives money to starving children in Africa while everyone else buys some great new pair of shoes instead. You’re definitely the one the dog stares at during dinner.”

“I lied partly out of insecurity, I knew that. I read all about insecurity in my books. Insecurity was a colorless sense of not being good enough that could sit upon your spirit the same as a filmy layer of dirt on a window; something you might not know was even there until the sun tried to shine through. Insecurity, too, was probably part of why I preferred to be alone, and why I was not always brave enough to show who I was, but it was more than that, the lying. I also did it to make people more comfortable. I’d say I was nervous for the AP U.S. History test when I wasn’t, or that something cost less than it did if a person was poor, or that I was bad at sports too when there were some I was honestly pretty good at.”

“He seemed to love saying her name. It was as if her name was made out of rose petals or soft rain or the sound a seashell makes.”

“I never understood why it was somehow superior to be a joiner. Being an introvert is judged in some extreme way, as if you’re lacking some ability to cope because you don’t drink beer and spoke pot in Macy Friedman’s basement. In our society, introversion as an alternate lifestyle gets less respect than any other alternate lifestyle, in my opinion. You could be gay and go to homecoming with your girlfriend or boyfriend, you could go drunk, you could go and ditch your partner mid-dance, but if you didn’t go at all, you were a loser. Introversion is distrusted—it makes people nervous. Maybe it seems like we’ve got secrets. They think the secret is that you’re depressed or something, that’s why you don’t seek their company, when the secret is really that you’re happy and relieved and almost flying at the near-miss escape of not having to be in their company. You’re looked at like you’re seriously lacking, when the only thing you feel lacking in is the ability to be an introvert in peace.”

“I always hated giving up. But giving up isn’t always the worst thing. It isn’t. It’s gotten a bad name. Giving up can be good. There are better places for my hope. Much better places.”

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