Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin Review

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Title: Rules of Summer
Author: Joanna Philbin (Twitter)
Publisher: Poppy
Publish Date: June 4, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

Meet 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.
Isabel and Rory couldn't be more different. If you think about it, their lives are polar opposites. Rory has had to grow up too fast and care for her mother, who is far more concerned with her own dating life than she is for the well-being of her daughter. Isabel is a pampered princess, and she wants for nothing. When Rory accepts a position in the Hamptons for the summer as "the help," she's prepared for the work, and she relishes the chance to get away from her home life. But Isabel and Rory's lives are meant to connect for a reason, and these two girls might just happen right when they need it most.

I'm not a stranger to Joanna Philbin's writing. Her Daughters series was fun, light and intoxicating, and while it's fairly unheard of, I really enjoyed it, which is big for someone with a general aversion to contemporary. Rules of Summer happened upon my reading pile at exactly the right moment. Offering a sweet, summery escape that whisks the reader away to a beach-side town where excitement, first loves and finding oneself is all just a part of vacation, this book is the quintessential summer read. Lighthearted and decidedly fun, Rules of Summer is a breath of fresh air.

After a string of so-so books, I really needed a break from what I consider to be a tired and slightly off paranormal and dystopian market right now. Rules of Summer seemed like the perfect fit...and I was right. There's a beautiful simplicity to this book that honestly speaks to me. When a contemporary novel doesn't push itself to be some awe-inspiring tale, but rather promises you sweet, fun and real-life romance, I think that's when a novel can truly succeed. Rory and Isabel were actually both likable characters, which I was quite surprised about. Rory was a very self-sufficient character, in large part because of her upbringing, or lack thereof. There was a gentle sincerity to her character, and an undeniable toughness that we gradually see slip away as the novel progresses. Isabel was the one I expected to be the trickier of the two, and in some ways she was, but not in the way I thought. She is a carefully-crafted facade, and her passive-aggressive demeanor masked a sort of fragility and vulnerability that was refreshing. The romances both girls experience are tender and progress naturally, though I will say I'd hoped there would be more of a balance, but we got a bit more from Isabel's storyline than we did from Rory's. The writing switches deftly between the characters' viewpoints, and the transitions are seamless, which was a highlight for me, as well. And, well, we get a great, nicely wrapped-up ending, which is perfect for a read like this.

All in all, Rules of Summer was a fun, beachy read for me and, once again, the author has me sold on her writing style. Yes, it's a bit melodramatic and predictable at times, but it's done well, and it's done in a manner that's not at all presumptuous. I give this a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it fans of YA, especially those who enjoy light, summery contemporary books. 

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. I love light, summery books and as luck would have it, a surprise review copy of this one popped through my mailbox a couple weeks back. I'm looking forward to reading it now! Lovely review, Melissa! :)

  2. I've seen this book around, but wasn't really sure that it would be for me, but I think I've definitely been sold to give this book a try, based on your review. I'm always in the mood for a cute Summery read, I think I will definitely be adding this to my Summer read pile! Gorgeous review Melissa :)

  3. Great review. I keep meaning to try her work.

  4. I haven't heard of this book before, but it sounds like a nice light read!

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

  5. I have had my eye on this beach read for awhile now. I haven't seen many reviews of it, so I am glad to hear it was entertaining. I have never read anything by this author, but it seems like I'd enjoy her writing style. I like that it alternates the view points in the novel--when an author does this well, I find it to be captivating to get into the head of both characters. Great review!

  6. I am in dire need of summer reads! This one sounds simple and fun and beautiful. I will read it. Great review, girlie!

  7. I hadn't heard of this before, but it sounds really good. Like you say, sometimes it's the simplicity rather than the complexity of a plot that lets the book and its characters truly shine.

  8. I also tend to stray away from contemporary novels. This one sounds like a winner though, I love that you liked both main characters. I haven't read anything by this author yet but I think I will try this one!

  9. Great to hear that both main characters were relatable! I'd expect from the synopsis that Isabel might be the type to grate on my nerves, but it sounds like the author handles her characterization well.

    Plus, I hear you on the tired state of the paranormal and dystopian YA markets. There comes a point at which it all seems like it's been done before! I guess authors and publishers are still trying to milk the trend for all it's worth (especially given the popularity of recent/upcoming YA book-to-movie adaptations), but it's frustrating for readers looking for quality storytelling, rather than sloppily-written "read-a-likes." (I'll stop ranting now before I get too carried away, LOL.)

  10. I've really been into the summery reads lately and just want to read them and nothing else. I haven't heard of this one and I'm not familiar with the author but I'm going to definitely look this book up and probably add it to the WL cause it sounds great!

  11. I'm not a fan of dystopian reads myself and much prefer light, fun books like this. Thanks for sharing your review.

  12. This one definitely sounds fun! I don't think I ever finished the Daughters books, but I remember enjoying the first couple. I'll have to check it out sometime soon.

  13. "light, summery contemporary books." ---- Sounds good to me :D Thanks for the review :D


  14. I'm glad you enjoyed this one! It does sound like a great summer read, and probably would be the type of thing I'd take to the beach. I think it's fascinating that it's about these two girls who are so clearly different but end up thrown together.


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