Monday, July 15, 2013
Review: Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin
Author: Joanna Philbin
Published: June 2013 by Poppy
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5
Summary from Goodreads:
There are two sides to every summer.
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?
Rules of Summer was an unexpectedly engrossing novel about love, heartbreak, friendship, and the class system. I started reading it because I was in the mood for a light summer read, then was surprised to find myself halfway through with absolutely no desire to put it down.
Rules of Summer alternates between focusing on Rory and Isabel, a duel narrative that I really enjoyed. It was a nice change of pace from the girl/boy duel narratives. Normally I have a hard time getting into a book that's written in third person, like Rules of Summer, but I had absolutely no trouble at all this time. In fact, I really enjoyed Philbin's writing style. There were a few times where it was unclear which girl was the "she" being referred to, but those instances were brief and cleared up quickly.
Though it may appear to be just a light romantic read, Rules of Summer has much more to it than meets the eye. Rory and Isabel develop a friendship that forces them to examine the differences in their social classes, as does Rory's crush on Isabel's brother and Isabel's infatuation with a guy who is far removed from her country club world. I loved how Rules of Summer had a strong family storyline, and wasn't just about summer romances. There are plenty of those out there.
The biggest love story in this novel is the friendship between Isabel and Rory. It felt genuine to me, and the way both of them grow from it was great to read. Both Rory and Isabel's personalities were very distinct and I connected with them both in different ways. Rory's down-to-earth qualities and how she handled herself in uncomfortable situations were very easy to relate to, while Isabel's need to find herself outside of her family made me root for her the whole way.
My only problem with Rules of Summer was the rushed ending. I wish there had been some more resolution to a few things, or more of the month of August. There was also a twist that I saw a mile away, but also one that I didn't see coming at all. So in my mind that's evened out.
I would definitely recommend Rules of Summer for anyone looking for an engrossing young adult contemporary that has a whole lot of heart.