The Summer I Turned Pretty, Book 2
Tags: YA, summer, cancer, death, grief, love triangle
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Note: potential spoilers for Book 1
Belly’s last summer at Cousins Beach ended on a bittersweet note. On the one hand, the love of her life, Conrad, finally noticed her in a romantic way. On the other hand, they find out that Conrad and Jeremiah’s mother Susannah’s cancer has returned. Everyone takes Susannah’s passing hard, but perhaps none more so than Conrad, who disappears halfway into his summer college session. Jeremiah asks Belly to help him find Conrad, which Belly agrees to—with reservation, for she has no idea how he feels about him, whether or not they’ll ever work out.
When they catch up to Conrad, however, they realize that something big is at stake, and it may require all of them to lay aside their turbulent feelings for one another in order to save summer as they know it.
I find it very hard to describe why, exactly, I love this series so very much. The story’s not that unique, and the plot can drag at times. Nevertheless, I found myself effortlessly lured into Belly’s world in this second book in the series. IT’S NOT SUMMER WITHOUT YOU made me laugh, tear up, and swoon, and it is every bit as good as the first book, if not better.
It was impossible for me not to get emotionally invested in these characters. Jenny Han has created marvelously nuanced characters, flawed or troubled or just plain not nice…and yet all endearing. IT’S NOT SUMMER WITHOUT YOU has a gorgeous blend of family/parental tensions, vivid flashbacks, and your plain old-fashioned love triangle done right. The book is dotted with quietly emotional scenes that made me cry or cringe or shout at these characters I love to start treating one another better, darn it. The emotions are agonizing, and thus addicting. You don’t want to look away even in the most painful of moments.
Loving this book is an conscious act of devotion. I recognize that these books are not for everyone. Some might find the plot too slow and meandering to be engaging. Others will not feel much sympathy for Belly, who can come off as bland and immature. Those things, of course, did not bother me, for the sheer emotional resonance of this story quite justifiably overcame everything else.
With IT’S NOT SUMMER WITHOUT YOU, Jenny Han cements herself as a supremely talented writer who can avoid the second-in-a-trilogy book slump and make readers fall hard for the characters. Fans of the first book will adore this one, and if you haven’t yet read the first, you should definitely do so as soon as possible, preferably on a night when you want to feel emotionally alive.
Gayle Forman (If I Stay)
Jillian Cantor (The Life of Glass)
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - I like that the font, color scheme, and images match the look and feel of the first book, but overall it's SO dull, and lacks a certain sort of passion, and doesn't do any justice to the story.
Simon & Schuster / April 27, 2010 / Hardcover / 288pp. / $16.99
ARC borrowed from Doylestown Bookshop's Advance Readers Program.