Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: We'll Always Have Summer

Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
This review includes spoilers for the first two books in the Summer series - The Summer I Turned Pretty and It's Not Summer Without You.

I'm a little torn by this book. Picking up two years after the end of It's Not Summer Without You, Belly and Jeremiah are now established as a couple and Conrad is on the other side of the country. However, when Belly and Jeremiah decide to get married at the end of the summer, Conrad realizes that he's losing Belly for good. Whereas in the second book there were chapters told from Jeremiah's POV, this time Conrad had a few chapters from his perspective. As with Jeremiah's chapters before, I loved this and really think it lent more understanding to Conrad's character and some of his past actions.

This book - at least in the beginning - was so different from the previous two Summer books. It begins with Belly, Jeremiah, and Taylor (Belly's best friend) at college and it takes quite a while for the setting to even approach the beach. Because of this and the fact that for so long Conrad wasn't around, the book felt off-kilter to me. I love Belly and Jeremiah, of course, but so much of this book took place during their "normal" lives which took away some of the spark that these books have. The real story, for me, began when Belly, Jeremiah, and Conrad ended up at the beach house as Belly and Jeremiah plan their end-of-summer wedding. Conrad's feelings for Belly make it difficult for him to be around the happy couple even as Belly, having moved on from him, is completely oblivious.

There were a few things here that disappointed me, if I'm being honest. While Jeremiah was always a carefree, goofy guy, that's taken to an extreme in this book as he becomes a total frat boy. Previously he was sweet and responsible, however he seems to have morphed into a more uncaring character. At many points during the book I sat there wondering what had happened to sweet, wonderful Jeremiah, and I felt as if the author had made him less likable for the sake of the love triangle, in order to show Conrad in a better light and put the Jeremiah/Belly relationship in question. I missed the old Jeremiah and was disappointed with his character this time around. I often felt that Jeremiah and Belly, though I'd been rooting for them to get together, lacked chemistry.

Belly's still naive, still stubborn, and once again it feels in some ways like she's trying to catch up to the boys. Or, in this case, keep them. Her summer family has dispersed with Conrad attending college in California and their summers at Cousins having fallen by the wayside. There's a nostalgia for the old days and while it often seems as if Belly might not feel it, it's shown in the characters' interactions and the infrequent flashbacks. The emotions here are just as crisp and all-consuming as they are in the previous books, a quality that I absolutely love. Belly's world has widened and no longer belongs only to her summer family but still the scenes with them are the sharpest and best in the book.

I feel compelled to mention that though this book had a few faults that bothered me, it was still excellent. The ending itself was absolutely perfect despite not being what I was expecting.


  1. I wanted to love this one as much as the first two in the trilogy, but alas, I didn't. Your review, as always, is lovely and balanced and fair.

    I know we talked about it before, but I still can't get past that feeling that the character decay of Jeremiah was intentional in order to make Conrad look better. I hate it, but I'm biased, because I always thought Conrad was kind of a whiny, "YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND MY PAIN" douche canoe.

    But that's just me.

  2. I agree with how you (and Clementine) felt about the changes in Jeremiah's character. I too felt they were a bit forced. Out of character, if you will.

    Great review!

  3. Clementine Bojangles
    I always really liked Conrad AND Jeremiah, which I think was part of the reason I was disappointed by Jeremiah's character this time around - not only did it not seem like him, but it also felt like it was just to make Conrad look better. And I'm not sure either of them needed that.

    YES, exactly. Sadface. That said, i still really loved this book. This series is just so great IMO.