Since Last Summer by Joanna Philbin ( web | tweet )
See review of Rules of Summer.
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Hamptons, summer, friendship, relationships, secrets
Format read: Bought a hardcover copy.
Summary: Isabel and Rory are back in the Hamptons for the summer. This time, Rory is a guest & dating Isabel’s brother, Connor, while Isabel is going through a “dry spell”. Her family life is certainly different this time around, and she can’t stop thinking of her boyfriend from last year, Mike.
I was really excited to spend time with old friends again this year. Rules of Summer was a highlight of my reading last June, so the idea of a sequel made me all kinds of happy. But, sadly, this summer did not hold the same kind of magic as the first.
Joanna Philbin had a lot to play with here: a reunion between Rory and her boyfriend, Connor. Isabel dealing with the family secrets she found out at the end of the last book. The friendship between both girls. And, finally, the family that brought all of them together: the perfect Rules.
I’m not sure where things started to go wrong for me. Instead of diving more into Rory and Isabel’s friendship, they spent a lot of time apart (Rory was interning and Isabel got a job as a waitress) dealing with various challenges mostly separately. So many times I thought to myself: I just don’t buy it. How close are they really? Are they best friends? Should they be? I wanted more. I think the friendship needed to be the anchor of this story, and instead, it was grazed over and it was presumed the reader just understood their connection. I needed to feel it.
“Grazed over” is a suitable way to describe most of the plot lines in Since Last Summer and it made the difference between an entertaining book and a memorable one. Rory has some unexpected relationship issues with Connor, and Isabel is dwelling on her breakup with Mike last year. Oh man, I really loved Isabel and Mike and not only could I relate to her inability to move on from him (even though she tried to convince her otherwise), I was rooting for this reunion to work somehow. (Is it strange how I wished the discussion of sex was folded more into the story? I would have liked to see the author have Isabel work through her first time and her intimate connection to Mike.)
New characters were featured in Since Last Summer too, and I happened to really like Evan and Amelia. One of these characters might have been as a device to create drama in the book, but because it was pretty much the only bolt of chemistry I felt in the entire story I just went with it, hoping things would work themselves out somehow.
It’s confusing to me why when given the chance to build on two great characters from a previous novel I still don’t have a good handle on them and their backgrounds. (Well, not true about Isabel so much, but what about Rory’s mom? I would have loved development there or even more conversations between her and her aunt, who worked for the Rules.) As a sidenote, I really enjoyed getting to know Mr. Rule in Since Last Summer and I wish he would have popped up more. A decision seemed to be made to place more importance on romance than family and that choice didn’t entirely work for me, especially when there was potential for so much more.
So would I still recommend Since Last Summer? I would. It’s breezy young adult book full of drama and cute boys. But if I had to choose between the two: Rules of Summer is the way to go.