6 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Title: The Unwritten Rule

Author: Elizabeth Scott

Genre: YA / Romance

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: March 17 2010
Hardcover: 224 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don’t like you best friend’s boyfriend.

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He’s easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he’s paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna’s boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah’s best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she’s thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It’s wonderful…and awful.

Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can’t stop herself from wanting more…

Why did I read the book: I have seen great reviews of Elizabeth Scott’s books and I thought this was a good place to start to reading her books.

How did I get the book: I requested a review copy from the publisher.

Review: (Warning: a few spoilers)

“There are a million rules for being a girl. There are a million things you have to do to get through each day. High school has things that can trip you up, ruin you, people smile and say one thing and mean another, and you have to know all the rules, you have to know what you can and can’t do. And one of them is this: You don’t kiss your best friend’s boyfriend. You don’t do it once. You certainly don’t do it twice.”

The unwritten rule: you don’t fall for your best friend’s boyfriend. Even if you liked him first. Even if you have liked him for years. Even if he likes you back. Except that we are all human beings and therefore flawed and there are some things that one simply cannot avoid: like irrevocably being in love with your best friend’s boyfriend.

A simple love story complicated by unfortunate circumstances: Sarah has loved Ryan forever but never acted on it for a series of reasons. But now, he is dating her best friend Brianna and being that much closer to him is making things even worse. It does not help that things don’t seem to be working that well between Ryan and Brianna and that Ryan and Sarah have so many things in common. And then one night, they kiss. And oh boy, it is everything she always wanted and more but what about Brianna, her best friend since kindergarten? She seems to love Ryan too – what can Sarah do?

I read The Unwritten Rule in one sitting and thought it was lovely although not without its problems. On the positive side, Sarah is a relatable character with a quirky voice, real emotions including the love for her cool parents, her love for art which she shared with Ryan and her friendship with Brianna which is a mixture of co-dependency and love. And Ryan is an absolutely a-do-ra-ble dork who so obviously liked Sarah as well.

On the not so positive side, even though the book is on the short side with just over 200 pages, there was still a feeling that the story was being unnecessarily dragged. As much as I had sympathy for Sarah and Ryan’ plight (if we can be so dramatic) and I felt the author did really get the psychological aspects to leap from the pages (I felt Sarah’s guilt as much as I felt her need to be with Ryan and his to be with her, you just can’t help but to root for the two of them) , it was also very clear that all was a matter of a simple conversation to be had. It was very, very frustrating to see that Ryan was so obviously not interested in Brianna at all and yet, why was he with her in the first place? It just didn’t compute with the fact that he was clearly a nice guy.

One of the most interesting things about the novel is how it is narrated by Sarah (first person, present tense with a few flashbacks) and how her narrative is tempered by her own view of things which are so evidently biased: not only by her own self esteem issues but also by her love for Brianna. For the reader though, who is not biased, and can see the other characters for who they really are, Sarah’s emotional journey is undermined by the fact that the reader absolutely knows where it is leading. And that is the greatest shortcoming of the novel: Sarah might have been blind to Brianna’s manipulative ways but the reader is not; and that removes from the equation what could have been the novel greatest strength: a true sense of friendship and guilt. Because the author takes the easy way out, by making Brianna the friend who is not really the good friend, therefore making it easier for the reader to side with Sarah and for Sarah to make a stand. Had it not been that way, the book might have been a great book, a fantastic book, with a real earth-shattering ending for all involved including the reader. As it stands it is a great coming of age for Sarah because Sarah does go through all the uncertainty of not knowing, of having to make a choice, of knowing that what she feels is both wrong and right but in the end I was left disappointed and with a sour taste in my mouth. At the beginning of the novel Sarah makes an astute observation that the sidekick best friend is always referred to in movies and novels as the loser or the funny friend. It is ironic how in the end the roles were reversed and the other best friend ended up with the role of the Bitch so that the sidekick could come up on top. Surely, we can have two good girls in one book, none of them stereotypes, both deserving happiness?

Rant aside, overall I actually enjoyed the novel, the chemistry between Ryan and Sarah and I thought the writing was first rate:

“Thanks,” I said, although I’m betting it sounded more like “Geratyuhrh,” and then I reached for the book and he gave it to me, his hands touching mine for a moment.
And then he said, “Sarah,” and touched my hand again. I looked down. My fingers were spotted with the dark green my father had wanted the garage painted, and his hands were spotted too, white and yellow, and the book slid to the floor as he did more than touch my hand. He held it, he slid his fingers into mine.
Our palms pressed together, and all I could think of was a line I’d read somewhere, about palms pressed together like a kiss, and he was still looking at me and then we were standing up, still holding hands, and he was close, so close and he was leaning in and I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, could only watch and wait, hoping and breathless as he moved close and closer and –

I definitely want to read more by Elizabeth Scott.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

I am caught in a huge tangle I don’t know how to get out of. I want Ryan, but I don’t want to lose Brianna.

I open the door. Maybe it really can all work out. People have been to the moon and cured diseases and found ways to inject cream into snack cakes.

But that stuff doesn’t involve love. Or how you have to open the door to your crying best friend and know that you love her, you want to be there for her – but that you’ve done something that would make her cry too.

Additional Thoughts: Elizabeth Scott seems to have an interesting backlist – a mixture of light romance novels and more hardcore dramatic ones:

Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she’s got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showing pretty girls–and his “party” lifestyle–all over the Internet, and her mom, who was once one of her dad’s girlfriends, is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for far too long, Hannah has learned how to stay out of sight…and that’s how she likes it.

Of course, being unknown isn’t helping her get noticed by gorgeous, confident Josh, who Hannah knows is her soul mate. Between trying to figure out a way to get him to notice her, dealing with her parents, and wondering why she can’t stop thinking about another guy, Finn, Hannah feels like she’s going crazy. She’s determined to make things work out the way she wants….only what she wants may not be what she needs.

Lauren has a good life: decent grades, great friends, and a boyfriend every girl wants. So why is she so unhappy?

It takes the arrival of Evan Kirkland for Lauren to figure out the answer: she’s been holding back. She’s been denying herself a bunch of things (like sex) because staying with her loyal and gorgeous boyfriend, Dave, is the “right” thing to do. After all, who would give up the perfect guy?

But as Dave starts talking more and more about their life together, planning a future Lauren simply can’t see herself in– and as Lauren’s craving for Evan, and moreover, who she is with Evan becomes all the more fierce–Lauren realizes she needs to make a choice…before one is made for her.

Have you read any of Elizabeth Scott’s books? Do you like them? Which should I read next?

Verdict: This book has some lovely writing and a sympathetic protagonist and a couple with real chemistry to root for. It is a shame that the tension of the main plot is moot and undermined by a cop-out.

Rating: 6 – Good

Reading Next: Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

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  • Lenore
    March 15, 2010 at 5:51 am

    I haven’t read any of her lighter fare, but I thought Living Dead Girl was excellent. And of course I am looking forward to her dystopia GRACE.

  • Ana
    March 15, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Lenore, I heard really good things about Living Dead Girl but that sounds so heavy and eerily like The Lovely Bones (or is that only me who thinks so?)

  • Stephanie
    March 15, 2010 at 7:02 am

    I LOVED Perfect You although it’s quite similar to Bloom; I imagine whichever is read first will be the one liked more. So most people prefer Bloom because they read it first but I still adore Perfect You. I also really liked Stealing Heaven. In general I prefer her lighter novels.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    March 15, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Ana, it’s NOTHING like the Lovely Bones. I can’t even imagine where the comparison comes from. Who told you that? The Lovely Bones is about a murdered girl who is, from heaven, dealing with her family’s grieving and investigation into her murder. Living Dead Girl is about a young girl who is kidnapped and kept for many years being brutally tortured and raped and the effect that has on her psyche. It is heavy, but it had nothing in common with Sebold, except that both girls are raped by monsters.

    Living Dead Girl is VERY VERY different from her other work. But I was hanging out with Scott on Saturday, and she said that GRACE, which is about a suicide bomber, is much more similar in tone.

    I am a huge fan of Scott’s work. I love Bloom and Stealing Heaven, and I can’t wait to read THE UNWRITTEN RULE> I especially like how it seems like a YA version of one of my favorite chick lits, SOMETHING BORROWED, by Emily Griffin. This story really appeals to me. I can’t really imagine it now, but I remember having long long LONG torturous “not-romances” with guys who had girlfriends, because it seemed like the worst sin in the world to steal another girl’s boyfriend. Now, I can’t imagine how I ever fell victim to guys who would string you along, or took these “non-relationships” the guys were having as seriously as I did, but back then — wowsa.

  • Ana
    March 15, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Hi Diana

    I saw it at her own website, as I was reading it yesterday for blurbs, I came across this bit:

    While promotional copy suggests similarity to Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, this is actually more of a complement than an echo

    From reading quotes and reviews, I just felt like both stories would be similar in tone? I haven’t read either so I really don’t know.

  • katiebabs
    March 15, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I’ve read Living Dead Girl and although it has it’s very dark and disturbing moments, I found it very lacking. Too short and stilted, but I can see where some readers would be affected by it.

    Unfortunately I would give it a pass. And it is nothing like The Lovely Bones. Bad advertising on the publishers’ part to say so.

    I really want to read The Unwritten Rule you evol pimp.

  • Karen
    March 15, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Try Bloom. I really loved Bloom. I skipped Living Dead Girl, but have read everything else by Scott. Bloom is her best, I think.

  • Tiffany M.
    March 15, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I read Perfect You before Bloom, and found I liked the former better. Perfect You just hit me the right way, but I still enjoyed Bloom. I have Stealing Heaven to read before I get another, though. ^^

  • Mollie
    March 15, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I love Scott. For anyone who likes Sarah Dessen , Scott would be a must read!

    I still think Bloom is my favorite.

    There was quite a discussion on the YA librarian listserv about the ending of Living Dead Girl.
    I thought it was a great book. Looking forward to Grace.

  • Angie
    March 15, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Ana, I prefer Scott to Dessen myself and I enjoyed BLOOM quite a bit.

  • Rose Lerner
    March 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I, too, am very tired of girls having to compete with each other. It’s like we’re Immortals or something–“There can only be one!” But actually there can be lots of awesome girls, and lots of KINDS of awesome girls, and I wish more books and movies were structured that way. I’ll check out her backlist, though…

  • Tina
    March 15, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Maybe it’s just me but I didn’t really like Bloom or Perfect You. I think it’s because I was looking for something like Sarah Dessen in Scott’s novels, but they’re really different writers. I did like Stealing Heaven a lot, though, which is enough to convince me to re-read Bloom and Perfect You.

  • Ana
    March 16, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Thanks for all the suggestions: I think I will go with Bloom next then.

    I find it interesting that there is a comparison between Scott and Dressen? I never read Dressen either but I have a couple of her books in my TBR Pile – god, so little time! – I need to give her a go to see for myself.


  • Lenore
    March 16, 2010 at 6:43 am

    I haven’t read Dessen either, but I have heard the comparison to Scott’s “lighter” fare.

    And no, Living Dead Girl was NOTHING like The Lovely Bones.

  • heather
    March 21, 2010 at 9:37 am

    while this book was interesting (although repetitive at times), it was pretty much a teenage knockoff of emily giffin’s “something borrowed,” down to certain lines (especially at the big scene towards the end). for what it’s worth, “something borrowed” was a fantastic book.

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