Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Poppy/Little Brown
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Summer, Long Island, first love, upper class vs. middle class
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)
Summary: Rory is thrilled to be leaving New Jersey and her dependent mother for a summer in the Hamptons — even if she will be working for a family without pay. (But there is free board!) When Rory arrives, she finds out that the family’s daughter, Isobel, is also her age but based on her behavior is pretty positive they won’t be friends. Isobel, on the other hand, has just come back from school in California, isn’t feeling her country club friends anymore, and feels even more out of place in her house. But things take a turn for the better when she bumps into Mike…
One thing that I absolutely love about reading is discovering books set in places you know. Right away, I felt bonded to Rules of Summer because of buzzwords like Montauk Highway, Hamptons, and even Stony Brook. I spent my freshman and sophomore year of college out in Southampton, and even though my school was in debt and closed (true story), the Hamptons are such a special place to me. (Like where I went on a first date with my husband.)
Summer is all about that escape. Rory has an opportunity to hang out in the Hamptons; sure she is working but the “away from her mother and all her drama” makes the free board and no pay worth it. For Isobel Rule, she’s back in the fray, returning to a family she never felt a part of, and friends she suddenly finds totally superficial. Her solace is all about the surf. These two girls come from totally different worlds but are forced together when Rory is recruited to give Isobel driving lessons.
I have to applaud Philbin here because she doesn’t prolong the whole “these girls have it out for each other” thing we see in a lot of books. While they really have no reason to be friends, there’s no reason for them not to be either. I’m glad we got the positive side of the coin here because Isobel needs a voice of reason and someone on her side and Rory really needs to let loose and enjoy herself for once. The girls are able to give each other those things, and, just in time, because…
BOYS. There are two of them. And they are very cute. (In fact, I like to call this book Nantucket Blue x 2 because we get to see two girls fall in love for the first time in Rules of Summer.) Isobel meets Mike when she gets caught in the surf, and oh did it remind me of the anxiety and excitement of falling so hard, you are practically sinking. She is so used to playing a game with guys that when she finally feels serious about someone, she’s not too sure how to act. (Especially since he’s older and a lot more experienced.) Their chemistry is so gosh-darn pulsating that I think it took away from Rory’s own forbidden romance a bit. While still sweet and fun, hers felt a bit rushed and not as thoroughly explored. (Notice how I didn’t tell you who Rory’s mystery guy is.)
So what’s at stake in Rules of Summer? A ton. Family secrets come rushing out, Rory is not exactly truthful with Isobel about her love life, and is Isobel’s relationship forever? Let’s not forget Mrs. Rule either — this lady may look sweet and kind but she “rules” a.k.a. dominates with an iron fist. What does this mean for both Isobel and Rory?
Even though the end shows up a little too abruptly and some big moments aren’t given the attention they deserve, Rules of Summer had me practically hearing the roar of the ocean in my backyard and truly invested in the lives of these two girls. And the good news? There’s a sequel in the works! I’m so looking forward to that!