Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin

Pages: 352
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date:  June 4, 2013
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When seventeen-year-old Rory McShane steps off the bus in East Hampton, it's as if she's entered another universe, one populated by impossibly beautiful people wearing pressed khakis and driving expensive cars. She's signed on to be a summer errand girl for the Rules -- a wealthy family with an enormous beachfront mansion. Upon arrival, she's warned by other staff members to avoid socializing with the family, but Rory soon learns that may be easier said than done. Stifled by her friends and her family's country club scene, seventeen-year-old Isabel Rule, the youngest of the family, embarks on a breathless romance with a guy whom her parents would never approve of. It's the summer for taking chances, and Isabel is bringing Rory along for the ride. But will Rory's own summer romance jeopardize her friendship with Isabel? And, after long-hidden family secrets surface, will the Rules' picture-perfect world ever be the same?"
Rory McShane decides to spend the summer at the Hamptons working for a wealthy family; it's the same wealthy family her Aunt Fee is a housekeeper for. The Hamptons is a welcome escape from her needy mother and her string of bad boyfriends that somehow find their way into their apartment.  All Rory has to do is run errands for the Rule family and in turn she gets to live in this gorgeous beach front mansion.  Rory assumes it will be smooth sailing until she meets the youngest Rule, Isabel, who is bratty, conniving and all around horrible.  However, Isabel grows as a person as the story progresses, especially when she starts a romance with a local surfer boy who shockingly isn't wealthy. Also, Rory finds herself attracted to Connor Rule, Isabel's brother, who seems, surprisingly, like a decent guy, but she knows a romance with him would be forbidden on many levels.  One thing is for sure, this summer is proving to be a crazy one for both Isabel and Rory.  Joanna Philbin's Rules of Summer is not a mind-blowing, life-altering book by any means, but it's a fun summertime escape.

Rory is the type of character that always tries to do the right thing in Rules of Summer.  I really admired her at times, especially when she was dealing with her crazy mother who depends on her way more than she should. Rory not only does well at school, but she also takes care of her deadbeat mom, pays the bills, etc.  I don't blame Rory for wanting to escape to The Hamptons and branch out a bit.  

On the other hand, Isabel was a tough character to warm up to in Rules of Summer. She's the quintessential rich brat and totally out of the set of Gossip Girl.  As she spent more time with Mike, the local surfer boy, I found myself being less irritated by her, but nonetheless, she wasn't my favorite character, even when she was nice to Rory. 

Philbin does a good job portraying the Hamptons and the lifestyle of the wealthy. It seemed like the author knew what she was talking about and then I realized she is the daughter of Regis Philbin, so perhaps she is writing from experience.  All in all, I think Philbin captured a summer in the Hamptons very well including the many shallow rich people that one may encounter especially when you are the housekeeper's niece.  

If you are looking for a summertime read that's a fun escape and has an Upstairs Downstairs vibe, check out Joanna Philbin's Rules of Summer. Even though I found it to be mostly predictable, I still enjoyed the diversion and plan to check out book two, Since Last Summer, which follows the characters to the next summer. Who can say no to another leisurely summer in the Hamptons?


  1. Rory seems like a great character, and the setting sounds fantastic. Although the story itself does sound a bit familiar.

    Nice review!

    1. Rory is a really interesting character and pretty much why I kept with the story since I didn't like Isobel at all. The story is a bit predictable and cookie-cutterish, but as far as beach reads go, it was pretty entertaining. Thanks for visiting, Lea!

  2. I feel like this is a popular teen trope to write about the wealthy at their summer playgrounds and see it through the eyes of a teen who is not wealthy but working for the wealthy family.

    I knew Regis's daughter had published some novels. Her other fiction I think also focuses on the wealthy. I suppose it is fun to imagine that world that would be so far away from what the average teen's life is like so maybe that is the appeal.

    I don't think I'd like Isabel as a character but Rory sounds interesting especially because of her challenging home life.

    1. Yes, it definitely is a popular teen trope; you are completely right. As I said to Lea, it was a bit cookie-cutterish, but mindless fun with a great setting. Rory was definitely my main reason for continuing the story. I was hoping to read book two, but I read some bad reviews about it, so I may wait. Thanks for visiting, Christina!

  3. I really enjoyed this one, Christina, and I'm glad to see that you found some enjoyment in it, as well. It definitely wasn't the deepest book I've ever read, but like you, I found Rory to be a worthy character to follow, and I'm so glad I did. Lovely review :)

    1. Exactly! I am glad we agree. I thought it was a fun beach read and perfect for a long day soaking up the sun. Thanks for visiting, Melissa!


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