Rules of Summer – Joanna Philbin


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?


This book was extremely underwhelming.

A lot of it was petty and shallow, but trying to be meaningful. It was one of those books that took itself way too seriously considering the content. If it were a little more lighthearted, I’d definitely consider bringing it up a star.

Rory was such an infuriating character at times because she circumvented her own happiness. She really should’ve been honest with Connor, rather than torturing herself when she couldn’t have him (even though she was the one pushing him away). Her insecurities seemed to breed a lot of problems, but she was depicted to be a strong, upstanding woman at the same time. It was strange that she was so incommunicado with her mom and friends from home, too.

The ending was really, really rushed. It was definitely a “wham-bam-thank-you-m’am” type deal, where each revelation came in quick succession. Mike’s reaction to Isabel’s confrontation was completely out-of-character for him. A lot of Isabel’s behaviour was inconsistent too. She was frigid and hated the help, then she hated the snobbery of her contemporaries, then she was the only one taking time to learn the chef’s name?? Perhaps that was an attempt to show growth over time, but I was skeptical of her behaviour. While the progression of friendship between Rory and Isabel was well-paced, other aspects were not. Rory was a very passive character, and several things were handed to her on a silver platter by Connor and Isabel. She did nothing to deserve the generosity that she received.

I was also really confused by the side-characters. Many didn’t seem to have a point. Was Steve supposed to play Devil’s advocate? Or was he interested in Rory and intentionally veering her away from Connor? He gave mixed signals, but was ultimately left hanging. Then other characters, like Isabel’s friends and Rory’s mom were completely static throughout the book. And that really sums up Rules of Summer. People trying to be more important than they were, and others winding up no different from how they started.

Related Reading

Young-YA, like:

  • The Clique – Lisi Harrison
  • The Au Pairs – Melissa de la Cruz

Rating: 2.5/5

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