In Joanna Philbin’s recently released YA novel, Rory McShane desperately wants to escape her childish needy mother for the summer. She goes to live with and work for wealthy Larry and Lucy Rule and their family in the Hamptons. Rory’s Aunt Fee has been employed by them for many years.
Isabel, the Rule’s youngest daughter, is rude, rebellious, and accustomed to getting things her own way. Though she and Rory are both seventeen, initially Isabel can’t be bothered with “the help.” Rory is terrified of Isabel, but she is assigned the task of teaching Isabel to drive and otherwise chauffeur the socialite to the country club, the stables, or shopping. Much to the surprise of both girls, over the course of those first two weeks in June, they become good friends. Isabel takes Rory to parties and the country club, but her friends snub Rory. Through her friendship with Rory, Isabel begins to recognize the shallow petty mindset of this upper class culture she’s been raised in. An underlying theme of this book zeros in on the prejudices between social classes.
It’s also a story about friendship and romance. Rory has a crush on Isabel’s handsome brother Connor from the minute she first sees him. She is certain he has feelings for her, too. But she’s a nobody from New Jersey. And he’s Connor Rule. His parents and friends would never accept her. Their relationship could never work. Or could it?
While recklessly swimming alone in the ocean, Isabel is rescued by a handsome surfer named Mike Castelloni, who lives on the less desirable side of Long Island. Their chance encounter sets off the first wave of their steamy summer love. While Isabel shares every detail of her and Mike’s relationship with her new friend, Rory refrains from telling Isabel about her feelings for Connor. She fears Isabel won’t understand or approve. Later on, this withholding nearly derails their friendship. Meanwhile, Rory runs miscellaneous errands for Lucy, helps serve guests at dinner parties, takes the dog for walks on the beach, and swoons over Connor.
While much of the mystery is obvious — for example, it’s not hard to figure out how Peter and Michelle Knox fit into Isabel’s life and why their daughter looks exactly like her – the story did throw out one twist I didn’t see coming. Rules of Summer is a light easy summer beach read. Philbin (daughter of Regis) has also written The Daughters series.