Saturday, June 4, 2011
Review: We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Book 1: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Book 2: It's Not Summer Without You
Tags: YA, contemporary, summer, wedding, love triangle
Belly and Jeremiah have been happily dating for two years, but things go rapidly downhill when Jeremiah hurts Belly badly. In an effort to keep her close, Jeremiah offers to make the most serious commitment that a man can make to a woman. Jeremiah and Belly start planning their future together in earnest, but are met with opposition from every side, especially Conrad, who returns from the West Coast and causes Belly to once more wonder if she hasn’t chosen the wrong guy after all.
As Jenny Han’s Summer series has been one of my favorite contemporary series in recent memory, I definitely had high expectations for WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER. And yet I don’t think it was merely my high expectations that made the third and final Summer book somewhat of a disappointment for me. WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER gave me the ending I had been rooting for since the first book, but it did so in a way that, I think, unfortunately sacrificed characterization and reader sympathy.
Two years pass between the end of the second book and the beginning of this one, but I was shocked at how poorly most of the characters acted. Not only was it their actions that made me cringe, it was also their flatness: I felt like the three-dimensional, flawed, but still lovable characters from the first two books regressed into petulant children by this installment. Jeremiah, Belly, Conrad, and all the adults felt like they were playing the roles of good boy/bad boy, good parent/bad parent, unsubtly manipulating our sympathies toward them so that we can be happy—nay, relieved—at the ending. And that definitely made me feel cheated, cheated that I, as a reader, was not trusted enough to be happy for Belly and whichever guy she ended up with.
And then: the marriage. It’s not that I’m against teen marriage—okay, I am, but in literature I’m willing to go with whatever the character wants…so long as it’s written convincingly. I felt like everything in this book happened too fast. Yes, I know that Belly and Jeremiah wanted things to go fast—but does that mean the story had to be told in what felt like a slapdash manner, with people running around frantically trying to coordinate things, only to have them fall into place perfectly at the last minute thanks to some “divine” (read: nice parent) intervention? Does that mean that tensions and arguments could arise seemingly randomly, and then settled without a problem a few chapters down?
Still, props for finishing up a really good YA contemporary series. Basically, it wasn’t that I had a problem with what happened in this book; rather, I had some issues with how this story was told. This evidently wasn’t a problem for the majority of bloggers who loved this final book!
Cover discussion: Not much to say about this series' covers. They're alright, they do well for the summer theme, but they're pretty unforgettable if taken out of context of how much I love the story.
Simon & Schuster / April 26, 2011 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $17.99
Copy sent for review.