Summer by Jenny Han
Books: The Summer I Turned Pretty (#1); It’s Not Summer Without You (#2); We’ll Always Have Summer (#3)
Paperback, 872 pages total
First published 5th May 2009 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult, romance, contemporary
Sources: Goodreads (#1), (#2), (#3)
Buy on Amazon (#1), (#2), (#3)
This review contains spoilers!
Synopsis of book one: Some summers are just destined to be pretty.
When each summer begins, Belly leaves her school life behind and escapes to Cousins Beach, the place she has spent every summer of her life. Not only does the beach house mean home away from home, but her favorite people are there: Susannah, her mother’s best friend, and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has been chasing Conrad for as long as she can remember, and more than anything, she hopes this summer will be different. Despite distractions from a new guy named Cam and lingering looks from Conrad’s brother, Jeremiah, Belly’s heart belongs to Conrad. Will he offer his to her? Will this be the summer that changes everything?
Overview: Instead of individual reviews, I decided this series was best reviewed as a whole. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this trilogy more than the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. Jenny Han’s writing for these three books reminded me of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which is one of my favourites. Even though their settings were very different, the vibe was quite similar and I loved that about this series.
What I loved about the series: The Summer I Turned Pretty was my favourite book of the three. It was filled with such tender innocence that made me long to have Belly’s childhood. I wanted my summers to be like hers. Endless days at the beach with children my age that I could grow up with. Memories like Belly’s that are unobtainable unless you have childhood friends like that. I was envious and wanted to be her (albeit less childish. Sorry, Belly. You know you are.)
However, although my childhood was very different from that of Belly’s, I felt like I was a teenager again. Through all three books, her struggle to become an adult was relatable. I think almost anyone would find it relatable, especially if they’re in love the way Belly was. It occurred to me that I was at the age where, as an adult, I could be all, “Belly, what do you think you’re doing? Noooooo, you idiotttt!” and at the same time completely understand why she wanted to do this or that. I really liked that Jenny Han’s writing could bring out those feelings in me; Summer is so bittersweet.
The characters and the way they behaved were realistic. Absolutely ridiculous at times (I’m looking at Jeremiah, his proposal, and Belly accepting it), but completely true to life (ah, teenagers in love). I liked how there wasn’t an explanation for how standoffish characters were at times. Some of what they did might not be acceptable, but wasn’t that just how some people were?
Favourite passage: Sometimes it’s like people are a million times more beautiful to you in your mind. It’s like you see them through a special lens–but maybe it’s how you see them, that’s how they really are. It’s like the whole tree falling in the forest thing.
What didn’t work for me: In the first book, Belly specifically mentioned that she and Taylor weren’t best friends anymore, not after what had happened when Taylor visited Cousins. This plot completely vanished in the second book without any mention of how they became best friends again. It irked me so much and I could not let it go.
Similar to above, I felt that there was room for other characters in It’s Not Summer Without You and We’ll Always Have Summer. Susannah and Taylor seemed so vital to the first book that the change in focus to being just about Belly and the two brothers (and a small dash of Laurel) was jarring for me. I felt myself hungering for more of the other characters. I got that the main plot had to do with Belly and who she was going to choose, but I also wanted more of Taylor, Anika, Steven, and anyone, really. Maybe I just couldn’t get enough of the other characters. After all, it is Belly’s, Jeremiah’s, and Conrad’s story that Jenny Han wanted to tell us.
Also, the smallest thing: in book two, Conrad says, “I could give a shit about the money. I care about the house.” Pretty sure that should have been “I couldn’t give a shit about the money” instead. Because, Conrad, I know you don’t care about it. What you care about is the house.
Conclusion: Summer is an idyllic trilogy that can transport any reader back to their youth. I thoroughly enjoyed it and Jenny Han’s talent of making her readers feel what it’s like to be young and in love. If first loves are your sort of thing, this might just be the series for you.
P.S. I chose the cover of We’ll Always Have Summer for this review because it’s my favourite cover of the three!