(Note: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
Just before senior year starts, Sophie, Ella and Grace find a list of dares written by Sophie's aunt Suzy. Suzy died a decade ago and has barely been spoken of since by Sophie's family. To pay tribute to her, the trio make up their mind to complete every dare on the list. But as much fun as ticking off items like "change a tyre", "go to a party" and "sneak into the planetarium" is, nothing can prepare Sophie for a revelation about her family.
None Of The Regular Rules does everything at least pretty well - Downing has an easy to read writing style, her dialogue is good, and she captures the fraught relationships between teenagers and their mothers with particular skill. However the stand-out part, which lifts it far above 'readable' and into 'go read now' territory, is the chemistry between narrator Sophie and Johnny Rush, the guy with the porn star name. (Her words, not mine!) The heat between the pair of them is so great that if it wasn't an e-book, I'd be expecting the pages to catch fire. Sophie is a wonderful main character but Johnny is seriously swoon-worthy, and gets more so every time he's on the page.
It's also a much darker book than I was expecting, in many ways. It starts off as a fairly light read, apart from the shadow of Suzy's death a decade in the past, but as the book goes on Downing weaves in some far grittier topics, which she handles well. I did think that one particular subplot was perhaps a tad rushed, though, but on the other hand it's quite interesting to see the topic involved there crop up in a book without being the main subject of the novel. (Apologies if that sentence is even more incomprehensible than usual, as always, fear of spoilers trumps clarity in my revews.)
Additionally, Downing captures the atmosphere of the end of school brilliantly. In fact, I'd say the only other book I can think of which really brings down the curtains on its characters' high-school experience as well as this one does is John Green's superb Paper Towns (which is set over a much shorter period of time.) Oh, one last thing - Trever German may be my new favourite minor character ever, or certainly my favourite of 2012. He's utterly wonderful every time he appears!
Definite recommendations to fans of YA contemporary books as an absolute bargain at just £1.94, I really want to get my hand on some of Erin Downing's others now!