The Rule Maker
Overwritten, unfunny, and implausible, The Rule Maker is everything that leads me to stay away from the New Adult sub-genre. A twenty-four year old new-hire Manic Pixie Dream Girl designer (Zoey) given sole responsibility for making over an entire ski resort? A trust-fund baby (Ryder) who refuses to use his inherited squillions and instead supports himself as a professional snowboarder? Endless lusting,and a nothing of a plot? As Zoey would say, “Um, NO.”
I tried really hard to come up with a plot summary, but the truth is hardly anything happens. Here’s my best one: Zoey is hired to design a ski resort purchased by Ryder’s billionaire brother Jason, with Ryder designated to manage her. Neither has any experience to justify this. Ryder and Zoey had a one-night stand a while ago, and each has rules about how to have relationships (not with clients; not for more than one night) which they will break. Both will behave unprofessionally and stupidly – Zoey by carrying on with a client, sometimes at the job site, and Ryder by jeopardizing his recovery from a snowboarding injury. Eventually, after a Pointless Misunderstanding, Ryder makes a Grand Romantic Gesture to show Zoey how much he loves her. (Zoey doesn’t have to do anything like that; that’s the man’s job, totes obvs).
I’ll say this for the book: within the first few pages, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into. We first meet Zoey when she’s adorably choking on a Reese’s Cup while driving a car. In a zany, witty way, she notes –
“But I still had seven episodes until I was caught up on Supernatural, and I hadn’t made it to the highest level in Candy Crush. I didn’t have time for dying yet.”
Get it? And things just get funnier when she goes to the ski resort in February wearing a skirt and high heels, then gets scared by a spider and screams into the phone while talking to her client. Hilarity! And then she accidentally throws the phone out the window, and becomes stuck in the window while trying to climb out after it, and her skirt rides up to flash her underpants at the hero. Of course she’s wearing cartoon character underpants! So amusing! And they’ll get snowed in together! There is nothing contrived about any of this! Nor about the later scene where they call an Uber and the driver shows up with a goat in the back seat who chews on Zoey’s hair!
The author is just trying too hard, both with the humor and with the characterization of Zoey. She has an “adorably” vicious cat who draws blood from Ryder. She binge-buys leggings when she’s nervous. She cutely smacks Ryder. She can’t cook without setting the kitchen on fire (literally; the sprinklers come on). She drinks boxed wine or the hip Tom Collins, which magically never leaves her with a hangover.
Which brings me to a personal hot button: Zoey gets blackout drunk while on a date with Ryder, which the author presents as just more of Zoey being quirky and real. The author specifies that Zoey drinks two sampler flights, a “jigger” of wine (a jigger is a cocktail measure, so that makes no sense) and three full glasses of wine. The definition of binge drinking is four drinks in two hours for a woman, and Zoey is described as both passing out in the car and missing memories the next morning. If an author wants to have a heroine binge drink, she should do better by this issue than portray it as Zoey’s amusing way to handle being nervous on a date, and as a plot device for Ryder to prove himself a good guy by turning down her drunken advances.
The other hot button for me is Zoey’s incredibly implausible career. After assigning this twenty-four year old who’s just been hired to decorate an entire ski resort for a billionaire, her boss tells her, “A few more projects of this scale under your belt, and you’ll be on your way to senior designer status in no time.” If the new hires get entire ski resorts, what on earth do the senior designers do? Suburban Seattle? At one point, Zoey “spent the next few hours redesigning each space in the resort.” The closest thing I’ve done to a major design project was my own bathroom remodel, and I spent “a few hours” just trying to choose a vanity. She thinks “outside the box” by putting snowboards on the exposed ceiling beams, which sounds tacky as hell. The crowning touch is that the book starts in February, then they work on the resort for three months and it’s done. Three months for an entire resort,and why? So they can open in June?
Beside Zoey, Ryder is generic. He’s rich, great-looking, and not only tolerant of but inexplicably attracted to all of Zoey’s “zany” “madcap” “charm.” He’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy for every girl who’s never felt like she had it together, and he’s got that immature “no woman for more than a night BUT I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS SPECIAL ONE” going on. I was offended by his reaction to his brother’s paralysis in a snowboarding accident – seeing Jason looking tired and worn, and smaller due to lack of exercise, Ryder thinks, “This wasn’t my brother.” Glad to hear your brother’s only identity to you is physical, Ryder.
This book may be polarizing. I’ve already seen some reviews posted where people think it’s hot and hilarious. Personally, I found it irritating. Maybe if you’re immersed in the NA world and more used to these tropes and this writing voice, it’ll be better for you. If you’ve already bought it, I sure hope so.