Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti

The Six Rules of Maybe
Deb Caletti
Simon Pulse
Realistic; Young Adult
April 2010

Scarlet, an introverted high school junior surrounded by outcasts who find her a good listener, learns to break old patterns and reach for help when her pregnant sister moves home with her new husband, with whom Scarlet feels an instant connection. (BWI description)

I always find interesting the official "one-sentence description" with regard to what it says about a book. It's a selling tool, and there's always some truth to it. The book always deals, on some level, with that description. But in this case, the description left out what, to me, the book was more about. Certainly in the end, Scarlet has a better understanding of what her personality patterns have been, and has the courage to break the self-defeating ones. But the book was so much more about falling in love with her sister's husband ... And who knows why S&S didn't highlight that instead.

Scarlet is a type of girl you knew in high school. Everyone likes her, if only because there’s nothing not to like about her. She’s not in the popular crowd, but rather she has the type of personality that attracts others who are decidedly not in the "in" crowd. (Whoa, was that me in high school and throughout many years of my adult life? You bet. Not that there's anything inherently wrong in that.)

She’s too shy to assert her needs, or even to know what she needs or wants. Until her sister Juliet comes home one day, pregnant and married to a guy she’d never even mentioned to the family ... Almost instantly, Scarlet begins to fall in love with Hayden, Juliet's new husband. It's just in her to do that. She bonds with the lonely, the downtrodden, the unloved.

Juliet is Scarlet’s opposite—sexy, outgoing, beautiful, and troublesome. In high school, she was into boys and sex. Fortunately, she took precautionary birth control, and so it’s somewhat of a surprise that she should accidentally get pregnant. But then, maybe not. For someone as flaky, self-centered, and immature as Juliet, probably just about anything is possible. (She's not a 100% unlikeable character, but close. Until the end, when Caletti finally shines a light on Juliet's self-defeating patterns.)

Toward Juliet, Hayden, her husband, is a romantic, besotted puppy of a man. He's really a sweet guy, and most readers will also fall instantly in love with him. He writes her the most romantic love letters to Juliet, which Scarlet secretly reads and swoons over. Unfortunately, it would seem that Juliet finds Hayden so boring, that she meets clandestinely with her ex-boyfriend, a creepy bad boy. It would seem that, near the end, she runs off with him.

As you can imagine, seeing that is heartbreaking for Scarlet, who would give anything for Hayden to have written her the love poems. I felt my own heart breaking for Scarlet throughout this book, for her doomed love, and her personality style that was so like my own in my younger years.

What I like best about Caletti’s writing is her deep insights about human nature. She frequently features characters, girls and their mothers, who fall in love with the wrong man, and it screws up their lives. But overall is a sweet romanticism toward life, which I find delightful.

If you're someone who likes a book heavy on plot, this one will disappoint. Scarlet spends most of her time worrying about other people’s problems, and so much of the book is introspective. But because Caletti  understands human personality and motivation on such a deep level, I loved that. Scarlet loves to read psychology books, which explains why she understands more about psychology than anyone her age normally would.

If I were to review this in terms of character analysis, and use Enneagram personality styles as a blueprint, Scarlet is the classic NINE. It is very difficult to pull off a story about a NINE style (as the protagonist) because they have very little sense of self. They don't cause conflict, because they have no idea who they are, or what they want. Because of that, there is no burning need that would push a plot forward.

But Caletti succeeds at it, and beautifully. The NINE style personality is afraid to hope for anything for their own self. They felt neglected by their parents when young. They felt that one of their siblings, or one of their parents, got all of the attention. Totally true in this novel. They don’t know what they want, and even if, by chance, they do find themselves wanting something, they’re afraid to go after it.

So they cling to hope instead. They're the old fashioned, fairy tale princesses who hope the warty toad they kiss will turn into a prince. Scarlet has the most agonizing, heartbreaking hope that Hayden will decide to love her instead of Juliet.

But it’s a relationship that cannot be. Hayden loves Juliet, and they're having a baby together. So Scarlet must learn, in the end, when it’s appropriate to let go of hope, or to displace it onto a more appropriate object. In this case, it’s Hayden and Juliet’s baby. And, in the case of a NINE style personality, that turns out not to be such a difficult thing to do. She also, of course, learns how to stand up for herself. Feeling her anger, she gets the courage to tell her mom how she always felt neglected. She tells a creep who's been bugging her to stop.

The only thing I take issue with in this book is that the Juliet character should’ve been named Scarlet (because she’s somewhat like spoiled Scarlett O’Hara) and the Scarlet character should’ve been a Molly or a Mary or a Beth. Or maybe a Cathy.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds interesting. I can't imagine the complications that would ensue if you fell in love with your sister's husband.


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