Release Date: June 4, 2013
THE RULES OF SUMMER is about two 17 year-old girls living in the same beachfront mansion in East Hampton for the summer, one “upstairs” (the daughter of a very blue-blooded family) and one “downstairs” (the niece of the family’s housekeeper.) Isabel is the privileged daughter who’s used to having guys fall at her feet. Rory is the no-nonsense girl from a small New Jersey town who’s always been the friend, never the girlfriend. Besides becoming each other’s unlikely allies, both Rory and Isabel have a summer romance that will change their lives. (courtesy of Goodreads.)
I love Joanna Philbin's Daughters series. I was sad to see it end, but thrilled to see what she had in store for us next. Like the Daughters books, Rules of Summer is a feel-good, light read featuring the lives of wealthy (and not-so-wealthy) teens.
Rory lives with her single mom in rural New Jersey. She is the adult in the relationship as her mom is more interested in her boyfriends than she is in paying the bills or supporting her daughter. So Rory leaps at the chance to spend the summer at a mansion in the Hamptons even if it means being an unpaid servant. Rory is a good girl. Not that she's a goody two shoes but rather she's shaped by the fact that if she's not responsible, she'll starve. Her fierceness and her talent at dealing with difficult people come in handy during her summer with the passive aggressive and sometimes unreasonable Rule family.
Rules of Summer alternates between Rory and Isabelle's points of view. Isabelle is the youngest Rule child. She comes off as a stuck up snob in her actions with others and in her inner thoughts. It is easy to hate her as a poor little rich girl who doesn't realize how good her life is. But I couldn't help sympathizing and eventually liking her. Her hard shell hides a vulnerable girl who is disenchanted with the fakeness of high society and feels lost in her own family.
This is the summer for romance for both Rory and Isabelle. Isabelle falls for an older guy - a 21 year old townie. He's handsome, confident, mature, and seems so down to earth compared to her uber wealthy agemates. But relationships between 17 year olds and 21 year olds are rarely trouble free. Perhaps I would see things differently if I was a teenager, but from an adult perspective, Isabelle seems so very young and pitiable in her summer romance.
Rory has a troubled romance for a different reason. She develops a crush on Connor, the youngest Rule son, who's home from college. He is kinder and more genuine than the rest of his family. Rory has enough perspective to realize that relationships between the privileged and the "Help" are problematic so she tries to keep her distance, which electrifies the tension.
Rules of Summer is the quintessential beach read. It's a little soap opera-ey and the characters' problems are resolved too easily, but I'm not looking for complexity. I want a few good "awwww" moments and an inside view of the summer homes of the incredibly wealthy and that's exactly what I got. As the daughter of Regis Philbin, Joanna has experienced the lifestyle of wealthy New Yorkers. More than in the Daughters series, Rules of Summer paints the Hamptons, with its exclusive clubs and servant strewn households, as somewhat superficial. But I like that she neither vilified nor sanctified any of the characters.
I have read every one of Joanna Philbin's books with fervor and I will continue to do so. I love to live the high life vicariously, watch her characters grow into stronger and better people, and finish off with a satisfying Happily Ever After. When you head to the beach this summer or even just head out to your backyard, I highly recommend you include Rules of Summer in your stack of reads!
Rating: 4 / 5
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